A DoH spokesman said: ‘We are not running our usual national press campaign this year because research showed that the public do not understand the difference between antibiotics and antivirals.'
The DoH research, carried out in the summer, found ‘widespread confusion between bacteria and viruses', which conditions they cause, and which can be treated with antibiotics.
The spokesman added: ‘There also seemed to be some confusion between antibiotics and antivirals, the latter recently having become familiar. People wondered if they are the same thing, and if not, what each one should be used to treat.'
Mark Enright, professor of molecular epidemiology at Imperial College, London said: ‘Campaigns warning of the misuse of antibiotics are always welcome as this misuse has been driving increases in the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
‘It would be good if the distinction between antivirals and antibiotics was made in a campaign but so much press coverage is currently aimed at effectively detecting and treating H1N1 that the timing is probably not the best.
GPC prescribing lead Dr Bill Beeby said: ‘If too many messages are put out, there is the risk of confusing people.'