World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) takes place from 18–24 November each year.

WAAW aims to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most urgent global threats to public health. AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making common infections harder to treat, and increasing the risk of disease spread and severe illness.

Antimicrobials, including antibiotics, can cause side-effects for patients and contribute to the development of resistance if they are taken too often, or if they are used to treat the wrong type of illnesses.

Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant, meaning that antibiotics may not work when you really need them. Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis, but they do not work to treat illnesses like coughs, colds, sore throats and flu.

The awareness week is led globally by the World Health Organization (WHO) and this year, with the ongoing issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic around the world, the message is more important than ever and the WHO is asking everyone to ‘unite to preserve antimicrobials’.

It is important to remember:

  • If you have a virus such as flu or coronavirus, antibiotics will not help you
  • You should always take antibiotics as prescribed – never save them for later or share with others
  • Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk

Cllr Maureen McLaughlin, cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said: “It’s now more important than ever that we keep antibiotics working for when we really need them. If you’re suffering from a cold, the flu, or another virus such as coronavirus – antibiotics will not help you.

“We must do all we can to reduce the risk of catching viruses by using effective infection prevention and control measures. This includes things like washing your hands thoroughly and often, catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue and then disposing of it straight away, wearing a face covering when out and about, and keeping a distance from people outside your household or support bubble.”

For more information about World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, visit the World Health Organization’s website: who.int/campaigns/world-antimicrobial-awareness-week/2020