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Avoiding a post-antibiotic era

27 May 2015


Avoiding a post-antibiotic era


The annual cold and flu season has begun and the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (‘the College’) is reminding everyone that antibiotics are not a cure-all for the winter sniffles.

“Antibiotics simply don’t work against viruses. Most people’s immune systems can fight viral infections, and antibiotics are only necessary if someone develops a secondary bacterial infection,” says the College’s Medical Director Dr Samantha Murton.

In its newly released policy brief Antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance: avoiding a post-antibiotic era, the College outlines the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and some simple actions to tackle the process of antimicrobial resistance.

“Overuse of antibiotics is the leading cause of antimicrobial resistance”, says Dr Murton.

“The discovery of antibiotics transformed the treatment of infectious diseases. Sadly, their overuse means they are now far less effective against some bacteria than they used to be.”

Together GPs and patients can ensure that antibiotics are prescribed and used only when necessary.

Good hand hygiene reduces the chance of spreading infection and a flu vaccination can protect against the most likely strains of flu virus circulating this winter.

If a patient is sick with a virus, it is appropriate for GPs to recommend symptomatic relief such as plenty of fluids, a healthy diet, throat gargles and nasal decongestants, and a medical certificate for time off work when this is appropriate.

GPs may give patients a delayed or “back-pocket” prescription to fill later if there has been no improvement, as this has also been found to be effective in reducing antibiotic use.

“We all need to protect the effectiveness of the antibiotics we currently have, so that when you really need them, they still work” says Dr Murton.

The policy brief on antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance is available at https://www.rnzcgp.org.nz/policy-brief/

Ends

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