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Antibiotics are a valuable resource - use them wisely!


Public Health Agency

Type: News
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem and is already becoming a major threat to the management of infections. On European Antibiotic Awareness Day the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) are taking this opportunity to highlight the problem of antimicrobial resistance and to encourage patients and those working in health and social care to play their part in reducing the risk of resistance. To assist with this important message, HSCB and PHA are launching the recently-updated Northern Ireland Management of Infection Guidelines for Primary Care 2013. The guidelines build on the 2010 Antimicrobial Guidelines for Primary Care and have been developed to promote the safe, effective and economic use of antibiotics. The guidelines particularly aim to minimise the emergence of bacterial resistance in the community.Dr Lorraine Doherty, Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection) welcomed the publication of the updated guidance saying "Prudent use of antibiotics is essential in our efforts to combat antibiotic resistance and ensure we have effective treatments for infections for generations to come.  As such I see tackling antibiotic resistance as a key public health priority."As well as encouraging health and social care staff to play their part, PHA and HSCB hope to empower the public through educational resources to understand the vital role they play in reducing antibiotic use.Dr Lourda Geoghegan, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA explained: "Many people still wrongly believe that they should be prescribed antibiotics to treat viral infections. However, antibiotics do not work against viruses such as colds and flu and therefore they are of no benefit in treating these infections. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and overuse of antibiotics in the wrong situations can lead to an increase in antibiotic resistant infections."Antibiotic overuse is a serious problem and a threat to everyone's health. As we are now approaching this year's cold and flu season, I'd like to remind everyone that antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. All too often people think antibiotics cure common colds and flu, but that's not correct. Instead, rest, fluids, and if necessary a decongestant and/or cough bottle will relieve the symptoms."A range of public information leaflets have been developed to help people understand the correct use of antibiotics. These discourage the use of antibiotics to treat viral and self-limiting conditions in adults and children.Dr Brenda Bradley, Pharmaceutical Public Health and Governance Lead at  HSCB, added: "It is important that patients are provided with information about the best way to deal with common infections, both those that will get better by themselves and those that may need antibiotics. With this in mind, we have developed a range of patient leaflets that provide general information about antibiotics, as well as specific information on how to treat ailments such as sore throats, acute bronchitis, sinusitis and sore ears. Using antibiotics responsibly will help to ensure that they work when they are really needed."Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "There are few public health issues of greater importance than antimicrobial resistance.  Many existing antibiotics are becoming less effective, and inappropriate use of these valuable medicines has made the problem worse.  Coupled with this, there has been a marked decline in the number of new antimicrobial medicines, particularly antibiotics, in development. "We therefore need to conserve the antibiotics that we have left by using them as wisely as possible.  Patients should be guided by their GP as to whether they need an antibiotic, as many minor illnesses will get better without one. Health professionals across primary and secondary care therefore have a vital role to play in supporting responsible prescribing and engaging with patients and the public to ensure that the public Choose Well."





Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Public Health Agency. (2013) Antibiotics are a valuable resource - use them wisely! [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 20th September 2019].


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