Today (13th February) Public Health England launches a new campaign in the North West of England informing people that antibiotics don’t work for everything and stressing the importance of taking their doctor’s advice about whether they need them. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily causes dangerous bacteria to become resistant which means they may not work when they are really needed.
It is estimated that 5,000 people die each year in England as a result of antibiotics no longer working for some infections – that’s 13 people every day. In around 30 years we could see 60,000 people die every year because antibiotics have stopped helping them – that’s around 160 deaths a day.
However, despite the dangers posed by antibiotic resistance, one in four people in the North West (23%) has never heard of the issue.2 Furthermore, 40% of people in the North West don’t realise that if someone has taken antibiotics in the last year, any infection they get is more likely to be antibiotic resistant.
If someone takes antibiotics unnecessarily they are less likely to work when needed. They can also pass on antibiotic resistant bacteria to loved ones. Antibiotics are an important tool for doctors and healthcare professionals to help treat serious bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, meningococcal meningitis and sepsis and to help ward off infections during chemotherapy, caesarean sections and other surgery. However, antibiotics are being used for everyday viral infections, such as colds or flu, where they are not effective.
In conjunction with the campaign, a powerful film has been released by Public Health England which highlights the possible consequences of failing to take action on antibiotic resistance – showing a world where treatable common infections, minor injuries and routine operations might kill once again.
Paul Cosford, Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “The level of inappropriate antibiotic use in England, and across the globe is deeply worrying. Not only are these drugs ineffective against the common cold and other viruses, but taking them incorrectly may risk your health and potentially the health of those closest to you.
“It is estimated that 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections. This campaign aims to warn people of the huge dangers of antibiotic resistance and help people better understand the best treatment for them.”
Dr William Welfare, Consultant in Health Protection, Public Health England North West, comments: “Incorrectly taking a course of antibiotics or taking them when you don’t need them will not only diminish the chance of you beating your infection but will actually work against you, as the antibiotics will be less effective in fighting the next bacterial infection you get. To keep antibiotics working for you and your family, always take your healthcare professionals advice; this can be your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.”
For further information on antibiotic resistance please search NHS Antibiotics or visit www.nhs.uk/keepantibioticsworking.