Southern DHB is getting behind World Antibiotic Awareness Week this week and encouraging people to think about how they may use antibiotics better.


The DHB wants to get the message across that antibiotic resistance caused by the misuse or overuse of antibiotics is one of the biggest threats to global health today.


Southern DHB Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nigel Millar says taking antibiotics when they are not needed can cause bacteria to become resistant, meaning current treatments will no longer work.  “Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous. Setting broken bones, basic operations, even chemotherapy and animal health all rely on access to antibiotics that work.


“We need to help people understand why it is happening, that it poses a genuine risk to our future health and we can all do something to help,” says Dr Millar.


During Antibiotic Awareness Week Southern DHB patients, visitors and staff are being educated about antibiotic resistance through displays in the hospital foyer of Dunedin Hospital and slides on the TV screens. The DHB is also posting information on its Facebook page and on the staff intranet.


An important message to both staff and patients is that hand washing can help prevent the spread of germs, reducing the need for antibiotics.


“This follows on from the theme of Patient Safety Week last week,” says Southern DHB Infection, Prevention and Control Charge Nurse Manager, Jo Stodart.


“We spent last week reminding staff, patients and visitors about the importance of good hand hygiene and we’ll be continuing to do this during World Antibiotic Awareness Week. If we can prevent the spread of germs by following good hand hygiene this will go some way towards reducing the need for antibiotics.  We all need to play a part in helping protect the use of antibiotics and this is something simple that we can incorporate in our daily routines.”


Dr Millar agrees and says that hand washing is a simple step that everyone can follow to help protect the use of antibiotics.


“Everyone needs to take responsibility in helping to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance whether they are health professionals or the public.


“Many people don’t realise that bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, not humans or animals and that anyone at any age can get an antibiotic resistant infection. We need to use the antibiotics that are still effective as wisely as possible, ensuring they are only given to patients and animals who really need them,” says Dr Millar.


What can you do to help keep antibiotics working?


There are a number of things you can do to help protect the use of antibiotics.

  • 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
    • Hospitals and health care settings can help by keeping infections at bay by using the best hygiene methods available.
    • 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

Information about Antibiotic Awareness Week is available from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation