Survey: Most Australians don’t know difference between bacterial and viral infections

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Closeup of man hand pouring capsules from a pill bottle into hand. Senior man taking daily medicine to consume. Close up of male hands taking daily dose of drug.

A survey conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in March 2020 reveals that 92% of Australians don’t know the difference between bacterial and viral infections.

The survey was carried out on 2,217 adults as part of “Outbreak”, a multi-agency project aiming to prevent outbreaks caused by antibiotic resistance and build community knowledge in Australia. The major findings of the study included:

  • 92% did not know the difference between viral and bacterial infections
  • 13% of Australians wrongly believe coronavirus can be treated with antibiotics
  • 19% thought antibiotics were needed to treat the common cold
  • 14% have taken antibiotics as a preventive measure when traveling overseas

“The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is a huge problem because it’s fueling the rise of drug-resistant ‘superbugs’, which cause life-threatening infections but are immune to normal antibiotics,” said Dr. Paul De Barro, CSIRO Biosecurity Research Director.

Outbreak aims to use a One Health Approach, which will help experts look at how animals, plants, and the environment contribute to antimicrobial resistance and intervene in ways that will have the greatest positive impact on human health and the economy.