The prolonged COVI9-19 health crisis has had severe and far-reaching repercussions globally. Among these are the devastating economic and social disruption caused by millions of deaths, loss of livelihoods, along with the separation of families and communities. The pandemic underscored the need for continued vigilance for emerging and reemerging infectious disease pathogens. Moreover, there is now an increased focus on the need to strengthen disease surveillance, emergency preparedness and response capacities in the Caribbean.
SARS-CoV 2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, and the influenza virus can cause ARI (Acute Respiratory Infections) or Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) resulting in a heavy burden on our healthcare systems. Therefore, although the worst may be behind us with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue to build on and to normalize those infection prevention practices that were adopted and widely practiced in 2020 and 2021.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) was recognized as causing approximately 700,000 deaths each year. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, AMR has continued to gain ground, fueled by an increase in the use of antibiotics to treat COVID-19 patients. Antimicrobial resistance continues to be a major public health issue and has been declared a global health crisis which endangers sustainable development and the global economy.
Specifically, AMR threatens the effective treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by a range of pathogens such as, bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi, resulting in prolonged illness and increased mortality, often disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable populations.
Worldwide, more than half of all antibiotics are prescribed, distributed, or sold inappropriately. In 80% of the countries of the Americas, antibiotics can be purchased without a prescription. As a result, it is critical that the public is made aware of this growing threat to our health and well being in the Caribbean.