THE battle against the superbugs is on and Warrnambool Base Hospital helped wage the war this week with a simple weapon — washing your hands.
As part of World Hand Hygiene Day on Monday, staff from the hospital set about teaching visitors the whys and hows of handwashing.
South West Healthcare infection prevention and control nurse consultant Jenny Lukeis said visitors to hospitals should wash their hands before and after seeing patients.
“By washing your hands, you’re helping stop the spread of superbugs,” Ms Lukeis said.
“There is water or gel around the wards, outside every room and at the end of every bed.”
She said it was also important during flu season for kids and parents to wash their hands at home.
Healthscope medical scientist Peter Shipp said the biggest cause of the rise of superbugs was people using or being prescribed antibiotics when they weren’t needed.
“Indiscriminate use of antibiotics has given rise to resistant organisms,” he said.
“We’re starting to see basic antibiotics losing their clout. They’re becoming ineffective and that limits the range of antibiotics a doctor can use.
“We haven’t seen any of the major superbugs where there’s nothing to treat them here yet. But we’re getting ready for them.”
He added research into new antibiotics was minimal because “they’re not a money-spinner for pharmaceutical companies ... like say weight- loss pills”.
Ms Lukeis said as part of the greater battle against superbugs, South West Healthcare had been discussing the over-prescription of antibiotics with GPs around the south-west and would continue to do so to help spread the word that antibiotics should only be used when absolutely necessary.
“People need to not expect antibiotics every time they see a doctor,” she said.
A good example of this, according to South West Healthcare antimicrobial pharmacist Sarah O’Malley, is people asking for antibiotics during flu season.
“The flu can’t be treated by antibiotics,” she said.
“We’re trying to raise awareness in the community — there should be an expectation that (if you’ve got the flu) you’re not getting antibiotics.”