TCI joins the world to observe World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW)
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues to threaten the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. The problem of AMR has become so threatening that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. It therefore remains one of the most urgent threats to human health.
AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to antimicrobial medicines. Therefore, antimicrobials - including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics - become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others. As a result, infections are more difficult to treat and may lead to severe illness and death. Antimicrobials are agents that are critical tools for fighting diseases in humans, animals and plants.
It is therefore paramount that we observe WAAW on a yearly basis to increase awareness of global AMR and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to stop the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections. In previous years, WAAW was entitled and observed as World Antibiotic Awareness Week. However, following a stakeholder’s consultation meeting in May of this year that included the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) decided to expand the scope of WAAW. The scope was changed from “antibiotics” to “antimicrobials” to facilitate a more inclusive global response to AMR.
Commencing this year, WAAW will be observed every year on November 18th – 24th and will support a multisectoral One Health Approach with increased stakeholder commitment. Therefore, everyone can unite to improve antimicrobial use. The theme for WAAW 2020 for the human health sector is “United to preserve antimicrobials”. The slogan for 2020 "Antimicrobials: handle with care" is applicable to all sectors.
Human behaviour continues to worsen and speed up the process of AMR. Examples include the:
- misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in people and animals, including use without professional oversight.
- lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animalsand inadequate infection prevention and control promotes the spread of microbes, some of which can be resistant to antimicrobial treatment.
Given the above, here are some ways to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistant organisms:
- Take antimicrobial exactly as prescribed by your doctor. That is, do not skip doses and ensure that you complete your course of treatment, even when you start feeling better.
- Only take antimicrobial prescribed for you; do not share or use leftover antimicrobial.
- Do not save antimicrobial for the next illness, discard any leftover medication.
- Do not ask for antimicrobial when your doctor thinks you do not need them.
- Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
The Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services (MoHASHS), by way of its draft national action plan, continues to work with a team of health professionals from various sectors to tackle the very serious problem of AMR. Among other objectives of the plan, the MoHASHS will seek to improve awareness and understanding of AMR, strengthen knowledge through surveillance and research, reduce the incidence of infection and improve the use of antimicrobial agents. Throughout the year, members of the team have engaged in several exercises designed to build capacity in the area.
Additionally, as a part of WAAW, the following events are being planned:
- A focus on antimicrobial resistance on the Monday, Nov 16th airing of health matters radio show
- Leaflet distribution to patients in the Primary Health Care clinics
- Displaying information videos at the TCI Hospitals
- AMR presentations to be conducted via online platforms to various church groups in Grand Turk, Providenciales and North Caicos
- AMR presentations to be conducted via online platforms to various schools in in Grand Turk, Providenciales and South Caicos
For further information on AMR, kindly contact the National Pharmacist at 338-3072.