What are they?
Infectious Diseases are ailments caused by microbes like bacteria, virus, fungi or parasites that reside in our bodies or enter our bodies through external agents. These diseases can be transmitted from person to person; hence they are also called Transmissible or communicable diseases.
The major causes of infectious diseases are the following microorganisms:
- Bacteria: usually cause diseases like strep throat, urinary tract infections, and tuberculosis.
- Virus: are smaller than bacteria but they can cause various kinds of diseases ranging from a common cold to AIDS.
- Fungi: typically cause most of the skin diseases like ringworm, athlete’s foot etc. and some of them can also cause infections in the lungs or nervous system.
- Parasites: spread among humans either through animal faeces or insect-bites, causing malaria etc.
Infectious Diseases employ different transmission methods, including:
- Direct Contact: is when an infected person or animal spreads to a healthy person through some of the following means:
- Person-to-Person: is the most common method of transmission and occurs typically when the infected person touches, kisses, coughs or sneezes on an uninfected person.
- Exchange of body fluids through sexual contact is another way to spread the germs. In some cases, the person transmitting the disease might just be a carrier and not infected.
- Animal to Person: is when a healthy person interacts with an infected animal. The infectious diseases can spread either by getting bitten or scratched. Some diseases like Toxoplasmosis can spread if animal waste is handled without proper protection.
- Mother to Unborn Child: is the part where a pregnant mother can pass on her infectious diseases to her unborn child either through the placenta or even through the vagina during birth.
- Indirect Contact: is when objects like the doorknob, tabletop, faucet handle etc. help the infected patients transmit to healthy people by just touching them as the germs remain on these objects. Wash your hands before touching your eyes, mouth or nose are the best measures to prevent infection.
- Insect Bites: from carriers like mosquitoes, lice, ticks, and fleas can transmit germs as they spread diseases from host to host through their bites.
- Mosquitoes carry malaria virus, West Nile virus, Dengue etc.,
- Deer ticks carry Lyme disease bacteria.
- Food & Water Contamination is another method to transmit diseases. For instance, E.Coli present in undercooked burgers, unwashed leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce etc.
Most of the infections caused by bacteria and virus are the same and is difficult to distinguish from each other. Some of these common symptoms are:
As patients suffering from most of the infectious diseases experience similar symptoms, the doctor will recommend the following diagnostic tests to confirm the right disease:
- Laboratory Tests: on the patient’s body fluids can help gather evidence of the microbe causing the disease:
- Blood Tests: usually taken from the vein of the arm.
- Urine Tests
- Throat Swabs: uses sterile swabs to get samples from the throat.
- Stool Sample: is collected for parasites and other microbes
- Spinal Tap: is the taking of the cerebrospinal fluid sample using needles.
- Imaging Scans:
Diagnostic Imaging procedures like X-rays, CT scan and MRI scans will help the doctor confirm the diagnoses and rule out other conditions.
- Biopsies: is when a tiny tissue sample is taken from an internal organ is tested.
Once the microorganism has been confirmed through the diagnostic tests, the doctor will recommend the appropriate treatments depending on the microorganisms.
- Antibiotics: usually for bacterial infections.
- Antivirals: specifically for viruses since antibiotics cannot treat viruses like: HIV, Hepatitis B&C, Herpes etc.
- Antifungals: used to treat fungal infections on skin or nails.
- Anti-parasitic: usually used to treat diseases like malaria caused by parasites.
The doctors usually recommend the following preventive measures:
- Washing hands regularly
- Wearing masks while visiting the sick
- Using antiseptics when hurt