The health ministry on Friday called on the public to start using antibiotics with more prudence in order to avoid developing a resistance to their beneficial effects.

According to a Eurobarometer, only 34 per cent of people in Cyprus, compared with 50 per cent in the EU, falsely believe that antibiotics kill viruses, but 91 per cent in Cyprus are aware that unnecessary use of antibiotics renders them ineffective.

According to survey presented by the Commission on Thursday, 23 per cent of respondents across the bloc have taken antibiotics over the past year, the lowest figure since 2009. The Commission said this percentage shows that the work of member states to help raise awareness among citizens on the risks of excessive use of antibiotics was paying off, even though much more needs to be done.

Throughout the European Union, Iceland, and Norway, more than 35,000 people die each year due to antibiotic-resistant infections.

The survey and the health ministry’s advice came on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, an initiative coordinated by European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) providing a platform and support for national campaigns on the prudent use of antibiotics in the EU, taking place each year across Europe on 18 November.

“Despite the fact that antibiotics save millions of lives every year, their irrational use led to high levels of antibiotic resistance and the to the rapid spread of resistant bacterial strains, which threaten the effectiveness of the drugs,” the health ministry said.

It further added that the emergence and spread of resistant microbes is a serious threat to global public health, as excessive use of antibiotic therapies “eventually leads to increased morbidity and mortality, as well as increased hospital stays.”

“The emergence of resistant bacterial strains is of particular concern, as infections with these bacteria are virtually untreatable.”

The ministry reiterated that antibiotics were not effective against viral infections such as flu or colds so they should not be given in these cases.

Rational use of antibiotics also means using antibiotics at the right dose and for the right duration, and using narrow-spectrum antibiotics when possible, the ministry said. “The rational use of antibiotics is the responsibility of all of us, health professionals and patients,” it added.

It also warned the public that antibiotics should only be taken after a doctor’s prescription and should not be store later use or give leftover antibiotics to others.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakidou, presenting the survey also warned against the excessive use of antibiotics.

“Overusing antibiotics feeds the resistance of bacteria to our medicines,” she said, adding that that was why antimicrobial resistance is often seen as the next big health crisis. “It is crucial for every citizen and every medical professional should be a part of this collective effort” she said.