Joint statement by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer to mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021

Antimicrobials are medicines that can treat illness caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Overusing these medicines, or using them incorrectly can reduce their effectiveness because the microbes they are meant to treat become resistant to their effects. We call this antimicrobial resistance.

The theme for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 18–24 November 2021 is Spread Awareness: Stop Resistance. We want to remind Australians what antimicrobial resistance is, and what each of us can do to prevent it.

Antimicrobial resistance is happening right now and affects all Australians. It also affects animals and the shared environment we all live in. If we can no longer treat simple infections from injuries such as a small cut, we can become increasingly sick. Even basic, everyday physical activities we take for granted can become impossible.

Not all sick people and animals will need antimicrobial treatment. Antimicrobials only work against certain types of infections and we should only use them when recommended by health professionals. For example, antibiotics don’t work against viruses so they can’t help treat a cold or flu.

Antibiotics are not ‘superdrugs’ to use ‘just in case’ – they only treat certain bacteria in certain conditions, under the advice of health professionals.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is an important opportunity to remind Australians about the proper use of antibiotics – the most used antimicrobials in Australia.

Antibiotic resistance remains a serious and long-term threat to human and animal health worldwide. It is vital that we use antibiotics wisely and treat these precious medicines with respect.

We can all follow these easy steps so to reduce antimicrobial resistance.

  • Follow your health professional’s instructions when they prescribe antibiotics.
  • Return any unused antibiotics (including ointments) to your pharmacist who will dispose of them safely. Do not:
    • throw them out
    • flush them down the toilet
    • keep them for future use.
  • Dispose of unused animal antibiotics by following the advice on the label.
  • Don’t use antibiotics prescribed for other people – they may not be appropriate for you.
  • Don’t pressure your health professional for antibiotics if they say you don’t need them – instead ask about other ways to relieve symptoms.
  • If you have animals in your care:
    • use good biosecurity, on-farm hygiene and animal welfare and husbandry practices
    • keep their vaccinations up to date
    • provide appropriate nutrition and clean housing
    • seek advice from your local veterinarian if the animals become sick.

The Australian Government and our partners across industry and the research community continue to work together to address and control antimicrobial resistance. This is part of the implementation of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond.

The Australian Government will continue to lead Australia’s response to antimicrobial resistance, but we all share the responsibility to only use antimicrobials when it is necessary and according to health advice.

Find out more about:

Professor Paul Kelly
Australian Government Chief Medical Officer

Dr Mark Schipp
Australian Chief Veterinary Officer

Dr Robyn Cleland
Australian Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer

Date published: 
17 November 2021