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European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD)

The European Antibiotics Awareness Day (EAAD) is an annual European public health initiative that takes place on 18 November each year to raise awareness about the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and to promote the prudent and responsible use of antibiotics.

The VMD, along with many others in the animal health sector, used this year's EAAD to promote our key messages, aimed not just at vets, but at farmers, pet owners - and the general public.

Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, Professor Peter Borriello has this short message about EAAD and responsible use of antibiotics

BVA has long championed the need for the responsible use of these vital medicines and we will continue to engage with vets in all types of practice to ensure that this message is heard loud and clear.
Robin Hargreaves, President of the British Veterinary Association

Antibiotics are key medicines in both human and animal health. Responsible use of antibiotics in livestock helps to maintain animal health and welfare and provide safe food for the consumer. Antibiotics should not be used as a substitute for good farm management which helps prevent disease and reduce the need for medicines.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day provides an ideal opportunity for everyone using antibiotics in agriculture to ensure they are doing so responsibly which means "as little as possible and as much as necessary".
RUMA Secretary General, John FitzGerald

Vets are in a privileged position; we are the only professionals with the right to prescribe antibiotics to animals. I know that we all have a united aim - to keep animals healthy and protect their welfare. But with that privilege comes responsibility; to use the right drug, at the right dose, the right time and for the right duration - in order to make sure that they stay effective for the future. I call on all those involved in the prescribing, administration or supply of antibiotics to work together to make sure that incidences of treatment failure - i.e. cases that are effectively untreatable - remain rare in the veterinary field.
CVO - Nigel Gibbens

What is the VMD doing to promote responsible use?

Help keep antibiotics working poster:

The VMD and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have teamed up to produce a poster for veterinary surgeries. It is aimed at educating pet owners that antibiotics are not always appropriate; encouraging owners to focus on preventing infections in their pet, and to listen carefully to their vet's advice. The poster is available to download in both A4 and A3 formats.

Engagement Forums:

The VMD want to engage more closely with those who look after animals, or who are part of the livestock and food industries, to encourage open communication and to help raise awareness about practices and initiatives that impact on the development of resistance. To facilitate this in November and December 2013 the VMD hosted a number of engagement forums targeting different animal sectors, including ruminant, pig, poultry, fish and companion animals. The purpose of these forums was to provide a platform for discussion about the specific issues surrounding antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in each sector.

  • A summary of the forums that took place in 2012 can be found here.
  • A summary of the forums that took place in 2013 can be found here.

UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) Report:

The UK report on sales of veterinary antimicrobials, published annually for the past fifteen years, has been revised this year to include data on the antibiotic sensitivity of bacteria obtained from animals in England and Wales between 2009-2011. The new report, the UK VARSS Report, was launched on EAAD, and marks the start of new approach to presenting this information - aiming to make it as accessible and useful as possible to veterinary practitioners, academics, and any other interested parties. We welcome your feedback on the new look report, which marks the first publication of bacterial sensitivity data from the VMD surveillance programme in veterinary pathogens (bacteria that cause disease in animals) since 2005.

Key messages - Responsible Use of Antibiotics:

One of the primary aims of EAAD is to raise awareness, to help do this the VMD have published a series of key messages aimed at various audiences within the animal health sector:

Farmers, animal keepers, and pet owners

  • Bacteria, including those carrying antibiotic resistance, can be transferred between animals and humans and vice versa, therefore it is important to practice good hygiene measures, such as washing your hands, to minimise this.
  • Not every infection needs to be treated with antibiotics and so do not expect antibiotics from your vet when they may not be needed.
  • Use antibiotics responsibly- the right medicine, at the right dose and at the right time.
  • Antibiotics are important medicines and should only be used when prescribed for your animal by a vet. Do not share these medicines between animals and do not give your animals human medicines.
  • Follow the advice given by your vet and use any antibiotics prescribed by your vet in accordance with their labelling instructions. Complete the full course prescribed and for farm animals observe the withdrawal periods indicated.
  • Your vet may not necessarily prescribe newer antibiotics available as older classes of these medicines may be just as effective in treating your animal(s) and may reduce the development of resistance.
  • Purchase any antibiotics from an authorised supplier.
  • Speak to your vet for advice and if you have any queries about your animal's health.
  • For further advice on the responsible use of antibiotics look at information provided by veterinary and animal health organisations and the Responsible use of medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance.
  • Farmers and livestock/animal keepers
    • Prevent diseases by implementing good herd or flock health and bio-security practices, good nutrition, hygiene and animal welfare. For example through good farm management (good ventilation, access to fresh water etc), farm health planning, and vaccination programmes.
    • Work with your vet to reduce the need for antibiotics. Medicines must not be used as a substitute for good farm management.
  • Pet and horse owners
    • Keep your animal(s) healthy through good nutrition, regular vaccination and de-worming, and exercise.
    • Inform your vet early if you have any difficulty in administering the antibiotic to your pet as delay in treating infection can make it harder to treat in the long term.

Veterinary Surgeons

  • Work with your clients to minimise the need to use antibiotics, for example through providing advice on keeping their animal(s) healthy, explaining to them why antibiotics may not needed, and through the development of an effective health plan with farmers.
  • Undertake an examination and clinical diagnosis before prescribing antibiotics.
  • Use antibiotics responsibly- the right medicine, at the right dose and at the right time. Wherever possible use antibiotics at an early stage, when clinical signs of disease are first diagnosed and become evident.
  • Use a narrow spectrum antibiotic wherever possible.
  • The product's Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) or product literature instructions and contra-indications must be clearly understood and taken into account especially when deciding on the dosage and duration of treatment. Do follow the storage advice.
  • Emphasise to clients the need to follow the antibiotic product's labelling instructions.
  • Perform sensitivity testing on causal bacteria against antibiotics of choice prior to treatment, where possible.
  • If a treatment does not appear to work, perform further diagnostic tests and report the treatment failure using a yellow form (available from: www.vmd.defra.gov.uk), as a Suspected Lack of Efficacy, to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). This is a valuable tool for veterinarians to be part of an alert system to bring an emerging resistance problem to the attention of interested parties.
  • For farm animals the routine preventative use of antibiotics is not responsible use and should be avoided by addressing the underlying causes of recurrent disease.

A number of other organisations within the UK and EU animal sector have produced guidance, leaflets and posters on the responsible use of antibiotics. These can be found on the Responsible use resources page.

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