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Calls for islanders to use antibiotics appropriately

18 November 2019

Logo saying Get well soon without antibiotics. Antibiotics don't work for illnesses caused by viruses

Islanders who are feeling under the weather this winter are being urged to try simple remedies. For coughs and colds islanders should not ask for antibiotics, but listen to advice from their pharmacist or if necessary their GP.

Health professionals also say that islanders can reduce their chances of becoming sick in the first place by washing their hands properly and being vaccinated against infections, such as the flu.

The advice comes ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November) and the World Health Organisation’s Antibiotic Awareness Week (18-24 November). The annual events aim to increase global understanding about antibiotic resistance as well as to encourage best practices among the public, health workers and policy makers.

Adam Leversuch, Antimicrobial Pharmacist, said the awareness events provided the perfect opportunity to remind islanders about what they do and do not need to take antibiotics for (see campaign poster below).

He said: "The arrival of winter brings with it runny noses, sore throats and coughs. In most cases these illnesses are caused by viruses and will clear up within a few days without the need for antibiotics. We would urge people to consult their pharmacist for advice on over-the-counter medications which may help to alleviate their symptoms."

"Antibiotics play a key part in modern medicine, helping to treat serious illnesses caused by bacteria. However, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics both in human and animal health has resulted in bacteria becoming resistant to some of the antibiotics used to treat them."

Local statistics show that improvements in the use of antibiotics have been made. In the past 5 years, the total number of prescriptions issued for an antibiotic has fallen by 10%. This means that on average, less than one (0.82) antibiotic prescription is dispensed per person each year in Jersey.

However there is much work to be done, as the local figure is around 60% higher than in England (0.52). In addition Jersey’s use of ‘broad spectrum antibiotics’ is also almost double that of England, accounting for 17% of antibiotic prescriptions dispensed locally as opposed to 9% in England.

Dr Muscat, Microbiology Consultant at Health and Community Services said: "The use of broad spectrum antibiotics is more likely to drive resistance, and in some cases can lead to patients developing Clostridium difficile infection, which is unpleasant causing diarrhoea and can lead to serious bowel problems. We are working hard with our hospital and GP colleagues to limit their use to more serious infections."

Paul McManus, Prescribing Advisor, added: "We have introduced local electronic antibiotic guidelines and promoted a range of other resources to support health professionals in taking decisions with their patients about when to use antibiotics.

"Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your loved ones at risk as it can lead to antibiotic resistance which means antibiotics won’t work in the future against potentially life-threatening infections such as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments or operations like chemotherapy, surgery or Caesarean sections will also become increasingly dangerous or impossible."

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