Newly elected Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The World Health Organization’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week – which ended on Sunday – alerted the medical professionals, the general public, governments, farmers, veterinarians and the food and feed industry that antibiotics should not be used unless they are absolutely necessary.
Overuse of antibiotics in Israel and around the world has caused a global crisis in which bacteria have developed resistance to many of the vital drugs used against infections.
Many Israelis with ordinary colds or the flu press their doctors to give them antibiotics to relieve their symptoms, even though they are not only useless against those and certain other ailments, but can actually be harmful. Many physicians prescribe them nevertheless.
WHO activities included campaigns on social media using infographics, quizzes and success stories to raise awareness of the need to act on antibiotic resistance and show what kinds of action one can take.
Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone anywhere, WHO said. “It occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.”
Bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant.
These bacteria may then infect them, and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.
People should adopt the following strategies: Use antibiotics only when prescribed by a certified health professional.
Never demand antibiotics if your doctor says you don’t need them. Never share or use leftover antibiotics. Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
Prepare food hygienically – keep food preparation surfaces clean, separate raw and cooked foods, cook food thoroughly, keep food at a safe temperature and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics.
While there are some new antibiotics in development, none of them are expected to be effective against the most dangerous forms of antibiotic- resistant bacteria.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health also took part in calling for responsible use of antibiotics in humans and animals.
“Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world and threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases.
Infections affecting people – including pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhea – and animals alike are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective,” the organizations said.
“Antibiotics are often overprescribed by physicians and veterinarians and overused by the public. Where they can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Examples of misuse include taking antibiotics for viral infections like colds and flu, and using them as animal growth promoters on farms or in aquaculture,” according to the UN organizations.
José Graziano da Silva, director- general of the FAO, said: “The overuse of antimicrobials blunts their effectiveness, and we must reduce their misuse in food systems.”
Said WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “Antibiotic resistance is a global crisis that we cannot ignore.”