Don’t bring a superbug home as a souvenir - Antibiotic Awareness Week 18-24 November 2013

20 November 2013

With the holiday season just around the corner and many Australians heading overseas, NPS MedicineWise is urging people to guard against the risk of infection whilst travelling.

During Antibiotic Awareness Week, Australians are being reminded that the global development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is one of the greatest threats to human health today.

NPS MedicineWise clinical advisor, Dr Philippa Binns, says anyone who travels overseas should be mindful of the risks they might be exposed to, and should take care to protect their health and that of their family and friends.

“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a problem everywhere, and international travel means that they can spread very quickly around the world. Bacteria that are resistant to one or more antibiotics cause infections that are more difficult to treat, last longer and carry a higher risk of complications,” says Dr Binns.

“Travelling overseas can expose you to infectious diseases not generally found in Australia. That doesn’t mean everyone will catch a ‘superbug’ if they get sick overseas, but we should take every precaution to avoid infection.

“And if you are prescribed antibiotics for a bacterial infection at home or while you are away, take them responsibly and exactly as prescribed to help fight antibiotic resistance at home and in the communities you visit.”

In a survey of 1000 Australians released this week^, NPS MedicineWise found that half of travellers have never considered the possibility that they could contract an antibiotic-resistant infection whilst overseas.

“Antibiotic resistance is everyone’s problem. If we want to preserve the miracle of antibiotics, we must all take steps to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria while we travel and at home.

Dr Binns said looking after your health and stopping the spread of potentially dangerous bacteria requires a practical approach to preparedness and prevention.

“Before you travel, make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date and find out what vaccinations are recommended for your destinations. Some vaccinations need more than one dose over a period of time, and your body will need time to build up immunity before you leave; see your doctor at least 6 weeks before your departure.

Dr Binns says there are many ways to avoid the risk of infection - practice good hygiene and safe sex; drink bottled or boiled water if it is from an untreated source; avoid ice; eat fruit you can peel; and don’t eat raw or reheated food.

“Before you jet off, make sure you know what to do if you get sick overseas. If you contract an infection it can be very tempting to buy antibiotics over the counter without a prescription. But it’s critical that you always speak to a qualified health professional who can provide expert advice for your particular situation.

“And if you feel unwell or need to see the doctor once you’ve returned home, be sure to tell them where you’ve been. Open communication with your health professionals is key.”

Join the fight against antibiotic resistance at

Learn more about antibiotic resistance and appropriate use of antibiotics at

Antibiotic Awareness Week 2013 is supported by the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care, the Australian Veterinary Association, the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, the Australian Society for Antimicrobials, the Australian College for Infection and Prevention Control, the Australian College of Rural & Remote Medicine, the Australasian Medical Writers Association, the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association, the Therapeutic Guidelines, the National Asthma Council Australia, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia with NPS MedicineWise as part of our five year campaign to address the spread of antibiotic resistance in Australia.

^Poll of 1000 Australians aged 18 and over conducted by UMR research in July 2013.


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

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