World Antibiotics Awareness Week – deaths could increase if we don’t take action now

Antibiotics 1

Ahead of World Antibiotics Awareness Week (12-18 November) people are being warned that, if we continue to overuse antibiotics, we could see many more deaths from simple infections that were previously treatable.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is asking everyone to do their part to help keep antibiotics working for the future. The agency is issuing a reminder that antibiotics should only be used for serious bacterial infections and that the medication doesn’t work for viral infections, like a cold or flu.

Dr Philip Veal, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Research has shown that a continued rise in antibiotic resistance would, by 2050, lead to 10 million people dying every year as a result.

“We use more antibiotics than we need to and this overuse is making bacteria more resistant.

“This resistance means antibiotics are becoming less effective at treating the bacterial infections they are needed for. If we continue in this way, we could face a return to the days before antibiotics when people died from minor infections and where the risk of infection made even simple surgery life threatening.

“Antibiotic resistance is something that affects everyone, so it’s important that we all take steps to help keep antibiotics working.

“As we move into winter, it is particularly important to remember that antibiotics are not effective in treating a cold or flu, as these are caused by viruses. Most coughs, sore throats and earaches do not need antibiotics. Your body can usually fight these infections on its own. Taking unnecessary antibiotics for conditions like these will contribute to them becoming less effective in being able to tackle the illnesses for which they were developed.

“The first place to get advice is from your pharmacist. There are things you can get over the counter to look after yourself during your illness and ease the symptoms until it passes.

“If you’re worried, contact your doctor’s surgery, who will be able to advise on the best treatment for you.

“Antibiotics are important medicines and should only be taken when prescribed.

“If your GP does give you an antibiotic, make sure you take it according to your doctor’s instructions and complete the course. Don’t just stop because you’re feeling a bit better.

“And remember, never share antibiotics with anyone else. Following each of these simple steps can help keep antibiotics working for the future.”

For more info on using antibiotics correctly, visit

For further information on staying well this winter, including details on how to get a free flu jab if you are in an eligible group, see


  • Research has shown that a continued rise in antibiotic resistance by 2050, would lead to 10 million people dying every year as a result. This report can be found at