Infectious diseases, also referred to as contagious or communicable diseases, are a very common occurrence in early childcare and education institutions (schools), workplaces, airports, commuter vehicles and transport terminals, and other outdoor spaces with high foot traffic and low enforcement of personal hygiene or hand washing practices. These diseases are brought about by microorganisms coming from multiple infectious sources that make their way into our bodies, whether through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with our skin and other mucous membranes. Once they find a host, they multiply, and lead to symptoms that cause us to feel sick.
These microbes can originate from other persons, and other animals, and can be transferred from animal to animal, human to human, or from animals to humans too, especially given common animal-raising practices in hog, cattle, and poultry farms. Living conditions for these animals are often tightly packed, with little to no room dedicated to roaming, where each animal stands shoulder-to-shoulder. It’s not surprising that these conditions would result in cross-contamination, and spread of disease and sickness among animals. Often, they are injected with a mix of antibiotics that eventually make their way into our systems as well, once we consume these animals.
In human-to-human transmission, we commonly get contamination through touching of surfaces like elevator buttons, bathroom doors, keyboards, and other high-touch areas. The key to lessen the spread of harmful microorganisms is very simple: regular hand washing. This simple practice alone can save one so many hours of stress, lost time, and effort spent on doctors visits.
Kinds of Microbes
Bacteria has two categories: Good Bacteria and Bad Bacteria. Certain forms of bacteria can be beneficial to us, as they are a necessary component of our body’s microbiome, helping us to digest our food, make vitamins, and support our immune system. Encounters with bad bacteria however, may lead us to develop infections such as urinary tract infections, strep throat, some cases of diarrhea, and some ear infections. These are relatively easy to treat and sometimes may require little to no pharmaceutical intervention.
What we should watch out for however, are more serious bacterial infections that could lead to staph infections, bacterial meningitis, tuberculosis, and more. While these infections are treatable with antibiotics, it is important to take note that ingestion of antibiotics should be done under the supervision of a registered healthcare practitioner, or physician, as antibiotics should be taken in specific doses, for a specific period in time, for it to be effective. Antibiotics are powerful tools that help get rid of harmful microorganisms in our body, but if improperly taken, could potentially lead to antibiotic resistance. Case in point is Staphylococcus aureus, a methicillin-resistant bacteria that can cause infectious diseases that are hard to treat.
Bacteria spreads and multiplies on surfaces that are moist and dirty. Within a span of 10 minutes they start to double in number, and within an hour forms a biofilm that acts as an armor for the bacterial colony, making it harder to clean and treat with a disinfectant. Thus, surfaces should always be kept clean and dry to inhibit the growth of bacteria, and the subsequent formation of biofilm. Should dirt get on the surface, immediate cleaning should be performed.
Similarly, molds are another kind of microorganism that typically forms in areas with high levels of humidity or ambient moisture. This would include
- rooms that don't receive a lot of sunlight
People are commonly alerted to the presence of mold when they develop throat irritations, nasal clogging, prevalent eye and skin irritation, or development of acute asthma. Some develop allergic reactions. The way to get ahead of mold growth would be to remove sources of moisture by keeping bathroom surfaces clean and dry. Author would recommend investing in dehumidifiers and room air filters to proactively eliminate possible molds in the air.
Most of the everyday illnesses we encounter, like the flu, can be attributed to viruses. While they are the easiest to catch, we often can get better from most viral illnesses without needing any serious medical assistance. These are very tiny microorganisms that need a host to survive. For example, the common cold is a bunch of symptoms brought about by 200 viruses.
Infections from parasites are something we get from ingesting contaminated food, or through skin penetration, and are a common occurrence in developing nations that have poor access to clean running water, and sewerage systems.
Fungi is another germ to watch out for. Upon infection, they manifest in a person’s body in the form of:
- scalp and nail infections like dandruff
- athlete’s foot
- diaper rash
While fungi infections last for long periods, they aren’t known to cause serious illness, and don't spread to the rest of the body of a person with a healthy immune system.
Disease prevention is partly a practice of mindfulness, for yourself and for your community. If you come to think of it, being more mindful of the role you play in preventing the spread of infectious diseases takes a lot less effort than the consequence of its opposite. We all have a role to play in providing a clean and healthy environment for ourselves and for our neighbors. Keeping this knowledge in mind will hopefully arm you with practical tips to prevent their spread, and empower you to take charge of your own health and wellbeing.