Infectious diseases

Newsletter - May 14 - Infectious diseaseInfectious diseases are disorders caused by organisms — such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. They’re normally harmless or even helpful, but some may cause disease.

An easy way to catch most infectious diseases is by coming into contact with a person, or animal, who has the infection. Many germs, however, can linger on objects, such as a tabletop, doorknob or faucet handle. If you touch it then touch your eyes, mouth or nose before washing your hands, you may become infected. Some germs rely on insect carriers — such as mosquitoes, fleas, lice or ticks — to move from host to host. Mosquitoes can carry the malaria parasite or West Nile virus, and deer ticks may carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Another way disease-causing germs can infect you is through contaminated food and water. E. coli, for example, is a bacterium present in or on certain foods — such as undercooked hamburger or unwashed fruits or vegetables.

Symptoms

Each infectious disease has its own specific signs and symptoms. General signs and symptoms common to many infectious diseases include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches

When to see a doctor

You should seek medical attention if you:

  • Have been bitten by an animal
  • Are having trouble breathing
  • Have been coughing for more than a week
  • Have severe headache with fever or seizures with fever
  • Experience a rash or swelling
  • Have unexplained fever

Complications

Most infectious diseases have only minor complications, but some infections — such as pneumonia, AIDS or meningitis — can become life-threatening. A few types of infections have been linked to a long-term increased risk of cancer.

Prevention

Many infectious diseases, such as measles and chickenpox, can be prevented by vaccines, but simple actions, like frequent and thorough hand-washing also help protect you from infectious diseases. It is essential that you visit a doctor for advice and vaccinations before going on a vacation or a business trip, especially outside Europe. Please make an appointment to our Travel Clinic when planning a trip abroad.

Source: Mayo Clinic

This article appeared in our May, 2014 Newsletter. For further information about the online publication and to sign up, please click here.