The Ministry of Health and Social Development is encouraging the community to do its part to reduce vulnerability to Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
Chief of Drugs and Pharmaceutical Services, Mrs. Gracia Wheatley Smith said the ministry is observing AMR week and emphasis will be placed on what happens when bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses stop being impacted by the medicines people take.
Mrs. Wheatley Smith said, “Our antibiotics – (the medicines that we take for bacterial infections), our anti parasitics (the medicines we take to treat parasites), antifungals (the medicines that we take to treat fungal infections) and antivirals (the medicines that we take to treat infections caused by viruses) become ineffective. This according to Mrs. Smith results from the mis-use, inappropriate use and un-directed use of medication.”
“When we do not use the antibiotic or antiviral in the right way, for the right duration of time, the bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites adapt to the environment of low dose of treatment, an environment where the organism is not affected by the medicine and 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,” she said.
Mrs. Wheatley-Smith explained that if the impact of AMR is not reduced, life will return to a point where there were no antimicrobials which will result in interventions such as open heart surgeries and hip replacement becoming more difficult to perform without the prevention of infections.
The Chief of Drugs added that more pre-mature babies will die because treating infections will be difficult if they develop an AMR infection and persons whose immunes are compromised,such as HIV and cancer patients will be more susceptible to infections and will die if they cannot be treated because of the resistance.
AMR week is being observed under the theme “Spread Awareness and Stop Resistance”, and its mission is to educate the community about AMR and its potential impact while sharing information about how to combat its effects.
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 which continuously feed the bacteria living on the skin. Normal soap and running water and good hand washing technique is effective in removing germs from the hands.
“Fill your prescriptions at a reputable pharmacy to reduce the chances of purchasing a counterfeit or substandard medication,” Mrs. Smith cautioned. She added, “Do not purchase medicines online. You maybe bypassing the hassle of going to the doctor but there have been individuals who purchased antibiotics on line that were counterfeit and they died as a result for the capsules were filled with strychnine which is a poison. The doctor has been trained to know which bacteria responds to which antibiotic and also laboratory tests identify which antimicrobial is most suitable in treating your infection.”
Persons who are interested in learning more about antimicrobial resistance are encouraged to visit the Government’s or BVI Public Health Communications’ page on Facebook to view the GIS Report featuring Mrs. Smith or call 468 9850.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.