Infectious diseases are extremely common worldwide. 

  • CDC reports (2018) put the official number of visits to physician offices for infectious and parasitic diseases as high as 7.2 million!  
  • Annually, 1 out of every 5 people is infected with the flu (influenza virus), in the United States!  

We are hosts to millions of species of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. These residents are normally harmless. But sometimes they may cause diseases. 

 

What are infections & infectious diseases? 

Infections/ infectious diseases are caused by pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) that affect your health and cause many ailments. They are also called communicable diseases. The way these pathogens spread is called their routes of transmission–  

  • Some are passed from person to person,  
  • Some are by insects or other animals, 
  • Others by consuming contaminated food or water, or  
  • Being exposed to a pathogen in the environment. 

 

How do infections spread (routes of transmission)? 

Direct contact: You may get infected by coming in direct contact with an infected person/animal. Some examples include: 

  • PERSON TO PERSON (touch, kiss, sneeze, cough) 
  • BODY FLUIDS- like blood and saliva (sexual contact) 
  • MOTHER TO UNBORN CHILD (during delivery or through the placenta or breast milk)  
  • ANIMAL TO PERSON (animal bite/scratch)  

Indirect contactYou can catch many germs by touching infected surfaces and things (like a tabletop, a doorknob, or a faucet handle). 

Insect bites – (mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, or lice)  

Food & Water contamination- (such as unpasteurized milk or fruit juice, undercooked meat, or unwashed fruits and vegetables)  

What are the Signs & Symptoms of an Infection? 

Even though every infectious disease has its own specific symptoms, there are a few general signs and symptoms common to several infectious diseases. These are: 

  • Fever & Chills 
  • Fatigue & Body aches 
  • Diarrhea & Vomiting 
  • Headaches 
  • Coughing & Congestion 

What causes Infections? 

Infectious diseases can be caused by: 

  • Bacteria-These are microscopic organisms responsible for sore throat, food poisoning, and urinary tract infections.  
  • Viruses-They invade and multiply inside healthy cells and cause many diseases like the flu, herpes, chickenpox, mumps, and AIDs. 
  • Fungi-They cause skin and lung diseases.  
  • Parasites-These are organisms living in the human body. The commonest example is Malaria (caused by a tiny parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes).  

Am I at Risk? 

Your risk of catching an infection increases if:  

  • Your immune system doesn’t work properly  
  • You have HIV or AIDS 
  • You have had an organ transplant 
  • You have cancer  
  • You haven’t had your vaccinations 
  • You are a healthcare worker 
  • You are an international traveler 

Are there any Complications? 

Yes, there are! Most infectious diseases can be cured by rest and antibiotics, but a few have serious life-threatening complications. 

  • Hepatitis B and C have been linked to liver cancer. 
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to cervical cancer. 
  • Helicobacter pylori has been linked to stomach cancer and peptic ulcers. 
  • Meningitis can lead to severe brain damage. 
  • HIV & Aids can lead to many types of cancer, and organ damage. 

What Prevention measures can I take, if any? 

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.  
  • Get vaccinated.  
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. 
  • Stay home when ill.  
  • Disinfect surfaces regularly. 
  • Practice hygienic cooking techniques. 
  • Wash and disinfect fruits and vegetables before eating. 
  • Practice safe sex.  
  • Don’t share personal items (like razors, toothbrushes, or combs).  
  • Travel wisely.  

When to see a doctor? 

Seek immediate medical attention if you: 

  • Have trouble breathing 
  • Have a headache and fever 
  • Have had an animal scratch/bite you 
  • Have been coughing for more than a week 
  • Have an unexplained rash or swelling 

Infectious Diseases Care at Doral Health & Wellness 

Learn more about infectious diseases @ 718-DORAL-55 and stay up to date on current health topics and new research, on recent infectious diseases like COVID-19.