Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
Chief of Drugs and Pharmaceutical Services, Mrs. Gracia Wheatley-Smith has called on residents to do their part to prevent antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
This call comes as the Territory observes World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, from November 24 to 30 under the theme, “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together.”
Mrs. Wheatley-Smith said if the community and the world do not play their part in reducing resistance to antimicrobials, operations such as open heart surgery, appendectomy or, cesarean sections, where surgical prophylaxis is required will no longer be possible.
Mrs. Smith said, “Infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, food borne diseases and many others will become harder to treat and therefore threaten person’s health and wellbeing.”
The Chief of Drugs cautioned that lives would be lost due to inability to treat mild infections or prevent infections from occurring such as in surgical procedures. She added that if the increasing rate of AMR if not reduced it will threatening our very existence.
Antimicrobial resistance or AMR happens when bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses are no longer impacted by the medicines people take.
“When we do not use the right antibiotic or antiviral in the right way, for the right duration of time the bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites adapt to the environment where the organism is not affected by the medicine,” Mrs. Wheatley-Smith said. She added, “As a result, they no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.”
Persons can do their part to reduce AMR by avoiding infection, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands frequently, cleaning and sanitising surfaces and cutting boards, and reducing the use of anti-bacteria products. Patients are also encouraged to visit their doctor should they have an infection so that it can be properly diagnosed and the right antimicrobial prescribed.
Persons are also advised to fill their prescriptions at a reputable pharmacy, avoid sharing medication, use prescription medications as prescribed for the duration of the prescription and by not taking medications that are not prescribed to them.
Mrs. Wheatley-Smith is cautioning pet owners about the use of antimicrobials as these animals can develop antimicrobial resistance and transfer this resistance to their owners. The Chief of Drugs is advising owners to use gloves when administering medications to their pets to prevent cross contamination. Pet owners are also to ensure that their medicines are prescribed by a veterinarian.
Antibiotics and antimicrobials are ‘prescribed only medicines’ and should not be dispensed without a prescription. Containing and reducing the rate of spread of AMR is everyone’s business as an increase in its resistance will affect everyone including adult, children and pets.
Persons who are interested in learning more about antimicrobial resistance are invited to contact the Office of the Chief of Drugs at 468-9850.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.