World Antimicrobial Awareness Week Launched

16 Nov 2021
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Kingston, Jamaica, November 16, 2021 (PAHO/WHO) – Jamaica will join countries across the globe in observing World Antimicrobial Awareness Week from Thursday, November 18 to Wednesday, November 24 under the theme, Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance. The week of activities, which will feature local and international experts, was announced at a virtual launch on Monday, November 15. 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) affects human, animal, plant and environmental health and it occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and can no longer be killed by antimicrobial medicine such as antibiotics. World Antimicrobial Awareness Week seeks to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance, laying the foundation for generations to come, to prevent and treat infectious diseases with safe and effective medicines.

“The development of antimicrobials such as antibiotics stands among the most significant medical advancements in the history of humankind. Unfortunately, as with many useful things, use leads to misuse and even abuse. The emergence of infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant organisms represents an existential threat to humanity. The death toll from drug-resistant infections rests at approximately 700,000 people annually, but this could skyrocket to millions of people in a short space of time,” said Ian Stein, PAHO/WHO Representative in Jamaica, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

He continued, “if we do not take individual responsibility and action in the fight to preserve the current options on hand to treat infections, unfortunately, it could lead to detrimental impacts for humanity.”

In his address at the launch, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness, committed to strengthening antimicrobial surveillance and spreading awareness about its impact on society.

“The Ministry of Health & Wellness will strengthen AMR surveillance through the development of agreed epidemiological and microbiological methods, the adoption of common definitions to enhance the ability to share and compare resistance information, and to attain better coordination of the surveillance networks. [We are also] encouraging [medical professionals] to spread awareness about what AMR is, share stories about its consequences, and demonstrate how the actions of individuals, families, professionals, and communities affect the spread of AMR.”

The health minister also highlighted the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and AMR as “parallel and interacting health emergencies”. He stated, “the COVID -19 pandemic helps to illustrate the potential long-term impact of AMR, which is less acute.”

Hon. Audley Shaw, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries championed the one health approach to mitigate the impact of anti-microbial resistance on the agriculture sector.

“It is our duty to ensure that our people have safe food to eat and that safe food practices are being employed throughout food processing and handling. We are therefore committed to a multi-sector approach to mitigate the spread of pathogens such as bacteria, or chemical residue along the chain of production, distribution, sale, and consumption of food. In employing the One Health approach to reduce the impact of AMRs, we have redoubled our efforts to strengthen our monitoring and surveillance programmes and laboratory capacity within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce. Regulators from both Ministries continue to provide support to help our farmers, fisherfolk and producers to create a safe environment to cultivate food.”

World Antimicrobial Week of Activities

Jamaica’s observation of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week will feature daily events for the public, agriculture professionals and animal and human health professionals. Discussions will focus on the agro-food industry and the harmful effects of antimicrobial resistance; antimicrobial prescribing patterns and pharmaceutical regulations in combating the problem; antimicrobial stewardship, infection prevention and control strategies in the fight against antimicrobial resistance; and an exploration of the possible public-private partnerships to alleviate the problem.

The PAHO/WHO Country Office will also participate in the World Health Organization’s Go Blue for AMR Campaign. To this end, the office will be lit in blue from November 15 – 24 to draw awareness to the harmful impact of antimicrobial resistance on society.

World Antimicrobial Week will be hosted by the Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Country Office in Jamaica in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, and the University of West Indies.