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