Every age group and all regions of the world are affected by infectious illnesses, which are global severe health problems. Infectious diseases pose a serious danger to public health because they may easily spread across continents because of growing international travel and trade. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a harsh warning of the potential for infectious disease outbreaks and the value of being ready to handle them. The causes, spread, prevention, and treatment of infectious diseases will all be covered in this blog.
What are infectious diseases?
Diseases caused by pathogenic organisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites and are contagious, are termed infectious diseases. Being contagious, they can spread from one affected person to another, via bug bites, contaminated food or soil, or other means. Some common infectious disease examples include the common cold, influenza, hepatitis B, etc. While some infectious diseases are minor and can be easily managed (eg. common cold), others can get extreme and difficult to treat (eg. HIV).
What’s the difference between infectious diseases and noninfectious diseases?
There are quite a few differences between infectious and non-infectious diseases, such as:
- Infectious illnesses can be contracted if an individual comes into contact with a disease-carrying individual. But non-infectious diseases are non-communicable, which means they cannot be spread by contacting a carrier.
- While infectious diseases are caused by pathogens (as mentioned earlier), non-infectious diseases are caused by factors such as lifestyle, genetics, malnutrition, etc.
- The main measure taken is to stop the spread of infectious diseases. For example, people affected by the virus during the pandemic were isolated to stop the infection spread. However, the approach is different for non-infectious diseases. It’s more focused on making lifestyle changes and using clinically proven medications. Though some may not be preventable, especially those having genetic reasons.
What are the types of infectious diseases?
Viral, bacterial, parasitic, or fungal infections can all cause infectious diseases. Below are the kinds in more detail:
- Fungal: Such infections may occur anywhere on the body, but is common for people with weak immune system. Some frequently occurring fungal infections are athlete’s foot, ringworm, yeast infections, etc.
- Viral: Viruses are notorious for hijacking cells and turning them into virus-producing factories. While many viruses disappear on their own, some can lead to serious or long-lasting diseases. A virus known as SARS-CoV-2 is to blame for the COVID-19 pandemic. Other examples include influenza, chickenpox, etc.
- Parasitic: Parasites live and breed on the systems of other living things. Such infections are often more common in tropical and subtropical regions. Examples include tapeworm infection, Chagas disease (caused by Trypanosoma cruzi), etc.
- Bacterial: Bacteria are single-celled organisms, with the capacity to cause various types of infections in the human body. For example, some of the common bacterial infections are tuberculosis, whooping cough(or pertussis), pneumonia, cholera, etc.
Who is most at risk for getting infectious diseases?
Although infectious diseases can affect everyone, when your immunity isn’t functioning correctly you might be more susceptible to getting sick. This might happen:
- Suffering from AIDS, which damages the immune system.
- Have a specific form of cancer or another immune-related disease
- Consuming certain steroids or drugs (such as immunosuppressants).
- Individuals over 65 years or infants.
Antibiotics and Antivirals
Infections caused by bacteria are specifically treated with antibiotics. They cure the infection by either preventing the germs from multiplying or by actually killing the bacteria. However, the use of antibiotics must be done with the utmost care, only when prescribed. Unnecessary usage leads to antibiotic resistance in the body. Examples of antibiotics are penicillins, tetracyclines, and cephalosporins.
Infections caused by viruses are treated with antivirals. Antiviral medications work to cure viruses by infiltrating viral groups and either halting their growth or destroying the viral cells. Common examples include rapivab(peramivir), zidovudine(retrovir), etc.
Can infectious diseases be prevented?
Infectious diseases can be greatly reduced by adhering to a few simple rules. As a first line of defense, start practicing personal cleanliness to keep pathogens far away. These measures include:
- Avoid direct contact with napkins, handkerchiefs, and the personal objects of others, all of which are various media for spreading infectious diseases.
- Washing hands (preferably with an alcohol-based sanitizer) frequently is a good habit. This should be especially followed after using the bathroom and before eating food.
- Wearing a mask outside can be a good idea, especially if it’s a common cold season or pollution levels are high.
In recent times, a number of innovative therapies for infectious diseases have been created. Such as:
- Specialized nanoparticles for targeting pathogens or cells in diseases such as HIV and influenza.
- Using viruses to target and kill bacteria, is known as phage therapy.
- Developing monoclonal antibodies, which mimic the human immune system and fight pathogens.
Vaccines have been demonstrated to be quite successful at preventing the transmission of infectious diseases within populations. The COVID-19 vaccine is the latest example, which successfully lowered the transmission and mortality due to the pandemic. Other examples include the measles vaccine, polio vaccine, and HPV vaccine, all of which have proven to be useful against infectious diseases.
When should I call my healthcare provider concerning an infectious disease?
In case of persistent or severe symptoms, one must immediately contact their healthcare provider. At Ayu Health, one can avail of 24*7 emergency services, at affordable rates. Reach out at 6366100800 for more knowledge.