Resources promoting antibiotic awareness among consumers have been produced both nationally and internationally. Some were made specifically to promote World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017 (13-19 November).
Why are there global concerns about antibiotic resistance?
- Antibiotics are a precious resource. These medicines are essential for treating bacterial infections in both humans and animals
- Antibiotic resistance stops an antibiotic from working effectively against bacteria – meaning some infections may become difficult to treat
- There are very few types of new antibiotics being developed, which is why it is important that those we have are used wisely and ensure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective for ourselves and future generations
- Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide problem that affects us all. Without antibiotics, we could face a situation where cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, organ transplants and other medical procedures are no longer possible. Bacterial infections which are treatable today could become deadly
- Inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance. Inappropriate use includes:
- Inappropriate prescribing
- People sharing their medicines
- Not taking antibiotics as recommended.
- Taking antibiotics against cold or flu viruses won’t help people feel better faster. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. They do not work against viral infections
- Follow the advice of health professionals on when and how to take antibiotics
- In August 2017, New Zealand began implementing a five-year Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan to minimise the impact of antimicrobial resistance to human, animal and plant health. The Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries are working with a wide range of groups and organisations on action plan activities covering five different areas: awareness and understanding; surveillance and research; infection prevention and control; antimicrobial stewardship; and governance, collaboration and investment.
We can all help keep antibiotics working
- It is important we use antibiotics the right way, at the right dose, at the right time, for the right duration
- By using antibiotics carefully, bacteria are less likely to become resistant to them
- Talk to your health professional about whether you are likely to have a bacterial infection needing antibiotics, or a viral infection which antibiotics won’t help
- Everyone has a part to play in reducing antibiotic resistance:
- Hand washing can help prevent the spread of germs, reducing the need for antibiotics
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and putting the used tissue in a waste bin can help reduce the spread of germs
- Never use ‘leftover’ antibiotics or share your antibiotics with others. Return unused medicines to your pharmacy for appropriate disposal
- Vaccinations can stop you getting and spreading infections that may need treatment with antibiotics.
New Zealand resources
Keep antibiotics working is a PHARMAC campaign aimed at informing New Zealanders that taking antibiotics won’t fix a cold or flu. This is because colds and flu are caused by viruses, and the job of antibiotics is to treat infections caused by bacteria. The campaign also addresses earaches in young children.
Health Quality & Safety Commission, Ministry of Health and ACC
This competition encourages students to create a poster highlighting either antibiotic resistance of hand washing. Entries close on Friday 28 September. Read more on the Health Quality & Safety Commission website.
Choose Wisely NZ
Choose Wisely New Zealand supports reducing unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures in health care. It has produced a range of consumer factsheets with advice that includes the appropriate use of antibiotics.
These factsheets cover:
- Treatments for a middle ear infection
- Treating fever in children
- Antibiotics for your skin
- Bronchitis – medicines and treatment
- Antibiotics – Coughs, colds and sore throats
- Antibiotics for urinary tract infections: When you need them and when you don’t
- Antibiotics for sinusitis.
Canterbury District Health Board-produced resources
Canterbury District Health Board has produced these antibiotic awareness resources as part of a local Choose Wisely campaign in November.
Contact Mick O'Donnell at Canterbury District Health Board if you would like artwork files you can amend for local distribution.
Image: Antibiotics don’t fix everything
Flyer: Keeping antibiotics effective, with your help
Poster: Antibiotics can help, but they can also harm
Letter: Your health is very important to us
Royal Society Te Apārangi-produced resources
Royal Society Te Apārangi has produced these antimicrobial resistance awareness resources.
These videos can be shared to promote World Antibiotic Awareness Week. If you would like access to the video file (eg, for use in waiting rooms), email us.
Video title: Antibiotic awareness - The global challenge - Dr Caroline McElnay
[Dr Caroline McElnay to camera]
Antimicrobial resistance is when organisms like bateria develop a resistance to the medicines that we usually use to treat them.
[Image of bottle of antibiotic pills]
And that causes a problem because then those medicines are less effective and sometimes completely ineffective at treating diseases caused by those organisms.
The research community is constantly look at how we can create more antibiotics, but antibiotics are actually very technically difficult to make and we're not making that many, and so we really can't rely on new antibiotics being developed in time in order to match the growing resistance that we're seeing across the world.
[Image of antibiotic pills spilling out of bottle]
So what we need to do is much more careful with the use of the antibiotics that we do have in place.
In some parts of the world we're already seeing a significant impact where diseases like TB are no longer able to be treated by the standard medicines that we've used for some years and so diseases we're literally running out of antibiotics that we can use to treat those diseases.
And we're seeing some of that in New Zealand. New Zealand is part of a global community, we've got people who travel both to and from New Zealand.
So what's happening in the rest of the world affects us equally and it's up to us to do our part as well.
[Image of the New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan document cover]
So we in New Zealand have developed our own action plan. We've taken guidance from the World Health Organisation and other entities across the world, in terms of what are the priorities that we need to address.
[Image of the Background section of New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan document]
Our action plan was released earlier this year and we're working through the different areas of focus in that action plan.
[Image of Priority action area 1 from the New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan document]
One of the key areas of focus is raising awareness and understanding about what antimicrobial resistance is and a key message there is around the use of anibiotics, the appropriate use of antibiotics so that we don't overuse antibiotics.
[Image of Objective No.4 (Antimicrobial stewardship) from the New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan document]
Other areas that we're working on in the action plan is our links with the veterinary world and use of antibiotics for animals and so we're working very closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries because it's not just what happens in health that's important, it's actually the use of antibiotics both for animals and also use of other antimicrobials in the plant world.
I think it's a significant challenge, I think we all have to play our part. I think that research and surveillance is a really important part of that so that we develop a much better understanding of what's actually happening in New Zealand, we need to be aware of that.
[Closeup image of antibiotic pills spilling out of bottle]
We do need to be very careful about how we use our antibiotics, I think that's something that we can do here and now and I think if we all work together as we are doing and as we're doing across the world, then I think we will be up for to face the challenge.
Video title: Antibiotic awareness - A GP's perspective - Dr Cathy Stephenson
I'm Cathy Stephenson, I'm a GP working in Wellington and I've been working here for about 20 years working in general practice.
And in that role see many people every week, a lot of whom will be unwell and perhaps coming with the idea that they may need antibiotics prescribed.
[Container of antibiotics open with pills beside it]
Increasing antibiotic resistance would be one of the most pressing health crisis of our time.
And unfortunately as antibiotic resistance increases our ability to treat relatively simple infections that have been very easily treatable until now, diminishes.
[Photo of someone washing their hands]
And that means that those infections not only have the potential to get worse, but actually become deadly.
In day-to-day general practice we would see many people who are unwell, often with symptoms such as a cold or a flu or a cough and there are situations where those patients may require antibiotics, but the vast vast majority of those will be people who have a viral infection and we know antibiotics are not effective against viruses at all.
So for a lot of the common day-to-day infections, antibiotics will actually have no place to play in their treatment at all.
However if we think about more serious infections, such as certain types of pneumonia, meningitis, blood infections then it's absolutely crucial that we have antibiotics that are effective in those situations that can prevent really potentially very serious infections.
[Closeup image of an antibiotics container]
I fully understand both as a GP but actually also as a Mother, how hard it is, especially when you've got a child that's unwell, maybe awake overnight, they're very distressed, they're in pain, and you really want to do everything you can to help them.
So often we will get families coming in saying, "you know I really think my child needs antibiotics, I think they've got an ear infection?".
So a big part of our role is to explain to the family, not only why antibiotics have no role to play in the treatment for their child, but actually what they can do to make their child feel better. And that will include enabling their child to get plenty of rest, making sure they're drinking plenty of fluids and making sure they've got adequate analgesia and that includes medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen which are really effective at treating the symptoms of fever and pain for a wide vartiety of conditions.
Ensuring that people know that these infections have a natural course, you know many of them will last a few days and then they will get better on their own without the use of antibiotics.
And usually when people have that explained, they're actually really happy to avoid the need for antibiotics as long as they know that there are other things that they can do instead.
[Image of antibiotic pills in their packet]
Misuse of antibiotics is one of the reasons why antibiotic resistance is so bad and that includes not only not using an antibiotic because it's been prescribed, so for example taking it for a shorter number of days or skipping doses, but also sharing antibiotic perscription. So only using half of yours and then passing it onto someone else who may have similar symptoms to be used at another time.
And those are both not only unsafe practices, but only really contribute to the resistance against antibiotics.
Video title: Antibiotic awareness - How hospitals view the challenge - Chris Little
It is massive, it's one of the most, well I'm very passionate about it, it's one of the most important things in the world to do with health.
Antibiotics are the most wonderful medicines, they're pretty unique, in that you actually take them, the right ones and you cure the disease. You don't have to take them for the rest of your life, they just work.
But we've been taking this wonderful resource for granted and now we're starting to run into issues.
You have an abusive relationship with them and we're starting to see them lose their power with the emergence of resistant bacteria. And we're seeing that in Wellington, we're seeing that all over New Zealand. And this is being driven by our overuse of them.
[Image of antibiotics container with pills beside it]
The hospital, well we're the end point, so any poor antibiotic use, any resistance organisms tend to finish up with us, you know serious infections.
In the hospital we have patients who are having surgery, we have patients who are having cancer chemotheraphy, these all require protection. They're immune systems are weakened, there's chances of bugs getting in the wrong places, so you know, we're a big user of antibiotics. So we got to use the right, right time, right dose with that patient.
I think one of the real key points is antibiotics are not harmless. People think it's better than doing nothing, just incase. And this is what we've got to get past, that cultural attitude with their use.
And this is a global problem, it's not just New Zealand, but we are one of the highest users in the world which is a bit of a worry.
[Close up image of antibiotics container with pills spilling out]
We've been really starting to get a good handle on how we use antibiotics. Not just sort of the raw tonnage, how much we use everyday, where we use it, but also the quality of obscribing. You know, making sure we are using the best choices for the patients that are there.
And it's not just a case of preserving them for next generations, it's a case of preserving them for that patient when they come in, in a years time.
[Shot of antibiotics awareness poster - Keep antibiotics safe]
We've been combining expert knowledge from around the country and internationally with our local knowledge of the bugs that are here and the best use of the drugs that are available and we've been creating guidelines, sort of, for Wellington and the region.
But we've also been developing an app now as well to help our prescribers, you know to lead them the right way and show them what the options, the best options are for that patient.
You know, taking into consideration the individual parts of that patients therapy. And then giving them our recommended choice.
[Image of an antibiotics pill packet]
New Zealand hospitals, there are some fantastic initiatives going on, there's some wonderful stuff. I think of Auckland, they've developed an amazing app that has loads of human factor safety features in it. Canterbury are doing great dosage work where they're trying to get more effective dosage regiments that are better for patients, but also better for treating the illness, easier for everyone.
[Closeup image of an antibiotics container]
There is great stuff going on, but it's not yet everywhere. We're beginning to get a critical mass going in New Zealand, we've got great teams, stewardship teams in some of the key locations.
And now we're trying to, sort of, get it out into all the other hospitals who don't have support yet. And we can see now we have a national action plan. Hopefully this will be followed by, you know, real support for stewardship and building a real base there.
Video title: Antibiotic awareness - PHARMAC's role - Dr John Wyeth
Pharmac is the funder for medicines for New Zealand. One of our statutory objectives is to achieve best health outcomes from the amount of funding provided.
Antibiotics, if they're not used correctly or if antimicrobial resistance is developing, it is very crucial to that, that will undermine achieving best health outcomes from medication.
[Image of an antibiotics pill packet]
Health professionals are certainly gatekeepers. It's important for the health professional to be aware of knowing when to prescribe the antibiotics and the right antibiotic to use and to use that antibiotic for the right duration of time.
Prescribers should be aware of prescribing guidelines. Prescribers should also be discussing with their patients because there may be alternative treatments for those patients, for instance with the common cold or cough, these often don't need an antibiotic it's just a matter of symptom management which will help relieve that patient.
[Image of the bpac NZ antibiotic guidelines cover and background information]
There are a number of resources available for prescribers. I would recommend bpac New Zealand and also The Goodfellow Unit which PHARMAC has supported in producing guidelines and other resources to help prescribers understand how and when to use antibiotics.
[Image of antibiotics container tipped over with pills spilling out]
Antibiotics are valuable in all aspects of medicine and surgery. And we often forget that things we take for granted such as cancer therapy, chemotherapy for instance, surgery, wouldn't be possible without antibiotics and if antibiotics are used irresponsibly, leading to antimicrobial resistance, we will lose these standard treatments.
Video title: Antibiotic awareness - A nurses role - Hilary Graham-Smith
So nurses are front-line health professionals, so they engage with patients and whanau all the time in a whole range of different settings and around a whole lot of different conditions.
So that means they're really well placed to provide education and support for patients about antibiotics and making sure that they have a good understanding of their treatment.
[Image of antibiotics container tipped on it's side for pills spilling out]
They'd be having a conversation about what vaccines are available, so for instance the flu vaccine, having that conversation about how useful that can be in stopping you getting influenza.
But also having the conversation about bacteria versus viruses, which are the commons causes of colds and flus. And describing the differences and the different ways managing those things.
[Image of a person cleaning their hands at a basin]
Not rushing off to the doctor with a cold or flu and asking for antibiotics in the first instance and doing simple things like thorough hand washing to prevent the spread of infection, covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and being really careful to dispose of tissues in the waste bin.
Covering cuts and keeping them clean is a good way to avoid infection too.
[Closeup image of an antibiotics pill packet]
Telling patients that they musn't share them with other people and that the should report any side effects like skin rashes or an upset stomach.
Everyone needs to think about doing their part to reduce antibiotic resistance.
Social media images
The following images can be used to promote antibiotic awareness on social media. Click the image for the full-size version.
World Health Organization (WHO) resources
The WHO has produced a number of resources to help promote World Antibiotic Awareness Week.
Poster: Our time with antibiotics is running out
Poster: Think twice. Seek advice.
Public Health England
e-bug: Games and teaching resources about microbes and antibiotics
Canadian Red Cross
Bug Out! Get the facts on germs: Activities and guides aimed at children, families and teachers.