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WHO Says People do not Fully Understand the Threat of Superbugs

Update Date: Nov 16, 2015 10:45 AM EST
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The World Health Organization (WHO), the health agency for the United Nations, reported Monday that people do not understand the threat that drug-resistant superbugs pose for public health. The experts added that people do not know how to stop the risk from growing.

"The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis," the WHO's director-general Margaret Chan said in a statement reported by Reuters. "It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world."

For this study, the researchers set out to find out whether or not people throughout the world knew about the threat associated with drug-resistant bacteria infections. These types of bacteria have developed resistance against antibiotics and other drugs due to overexposure. The resistance makes the infections a lot harder to treat.

The team surveyed 10,000 people residing in 12 countries, which included Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam, and found that 75 percent of people believed that the human body developed resistance to antibiotics, when in fact, it is the bacteria that have developed resistance to the drugs.

66 percent of the surveyed people thought that if people took their antibiotics personally, they would not be at-risk while 44 percent believed that the antibiotic-resistant infections are only an issue for people who take antibiotics more often.

When it came to the use of drugs, the experts found that people did not exactly understand what antibiotics treat. 64 percent of the people thought that penicillin-based antibiotics and other types are used to treat colds and flu. Antibiotics have no effects on viral infections. 33 percent stated that they could stop taking antibiotics once they felt better, which is not recommended at all. Patients should be taking the full course of antibiotics even if they feel better.

"The findings ... point to the urgent need to improve understanding around antibiotic resistance," said Keiji Fukuda. "One of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century will require global behavior change by individuals and societies."

On top of the survey results, the WHO launched "Antibiotics: Handle with care," which is a campaign that aims to increase awareness about drug-resistant bacterial infections.

"This campaign is just one of the ways we are working with governments, health authorities and other partners to reduce antibiotic resistance," Fukuda said reported by Yahoo! News. "One of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century will require global behavior change by individuals and societies,"

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently reported that the use of antibiotics in animal feed could be harmful to the public, particularly young children.

For more information on the survey, click here.

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