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Battling the superbug

27 March 2001 Media Statement

Battling the superbug

Health Minister Annette King says that a 55 percent increase from 1999 to 2000 in the incidence of infections involving the multiresistant superbug MRSA shows just how important it is to continue educating as many New Zealanders as possible about preventative measures.

There were 648 incidences of the Methicillin Resistant Staphlococus aureus (MRSA) in 1999 and 1003 last year, Mrs King said. "The problem is, of course, an international one, but unfortunately some strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria are now well-established in New Zealand, mostly in hospitals and medical facilities but also in the general community."

Mrs King said over-prescribing had been a factor worldwide in the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and preventing overuse of antiobiotics in the community was critical in slowing down the development and spread of the superbug.

"The Ministry of Health, GPs and other prescribers are working together to limit the use of antibiotics. Health practitioners generally have become far more aware of the problem.

"But the public has an important role to play too. If you are prescribed antibiotics you should complete the full course. If you stop once the symptoms have lessened, then often all the bacteria may not have been killed. In the resulting reinfection the surviving bacteria may be more difficult to kill.

"Individuals also need to accept that every time they go to the doctor, they will not come away with a prescription for antibiotics. Many common diseases are caused by viruses against which antibiotics are ineffective."

Mrs King said most incidences involving antibiotic resistant bacteria occurred, as could be expected, in hospitals, but there was also a need for caregivers outside healthcare facilities to take commonsense precautions to prevent infections spreading.

ENDS

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