Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, can include an illness that may be contracted through outside vectors and may also be spread in the same manner. This means that infectious diseases can be contracted and spread through contact, either directly from person to person, or indirectly through environmental exposures such as air and fluids. As a result, infectious diseases by definition can cover a number of illnesses that may all have varied causes.
The contact spread of infectious diseases comes from the body internalizing the foreign organisms that may be contained in the air or fluids.
The most common mechanisms for infectious diseases include:
As these factors are all living organisms, it also means that the potential for spread can still be high even after a patient has started treatment. This is because while a person’s immune system may be stimulated to fight off the foreign organisms, these organisms can still be alive and viable when they come into contact with another individual. The result is that a person is able to contract an infectious disease from a person who is seemingly in good health.
Understanding Vectors and the Contraction of Infectious Diseases
Although direct contact with any of the organisms that cause infectious disease can lead to illness, the most common mode of transmission can be through vectors. Vectors are essentially the path that an illness follows as it spreads through a population. These can include such things as:
- Water and food supplies
- Person to person contact
- Animal involvement
- Body fluids
This can make it very important to understand how different infectious diseases are contracted, since in some cases, specific forms of contact are required for transmission, while other diseases may be spread from proximity to an infected individual.
Symptoms of Infectious Diseases
Although a number of infectious diseases will have different symptoms depending upon the cause of the illness, there are a number of general observances that can be common for any communicable illness. This relates to the manner in which the immune system responds to foreign organisms in the bloodstream, and can be indicative of the contraction of an infectious disease.
- Fever – this is an immediate systemic response to a foreign organism in the body. The elevated body temperature means that the immune response is rapidly metabolizing energy in order to isolate and remove the microbes that cause illness.
- Gastric upset – this can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and is another systemic response that is an effort to remove the foreign objects from the body.
- Fatigue – this may be felt as a combination response to the actual effects of the infectious organisms or as a response to the body trying to cope with these organisms. Diseases which disrupt any metabolic function can result in feelings of exhaustion, although the raised energy usage from an immune response can also cause the sensation.
- Aches – these are most frequently felt in the joints and the lower back, although they can be a full body reaction. Most frequently, aches are caused by the immune response of the body, especially as histamine cascades are released to isolate and remove the microbes. The result is a systemic form of inflammation that can be the cause of this symptom.
Further symptoms will vary greatly, since they are more closely related to the actual cause of the infection. Many infectious diseases do have a sudden onset, although some conditions can develop slowly over time. This also means that the treatment of infectious diseases can vary, depending upon the causative organism, as some microbes will respond quickly to antibiotics or anti-fungals, while a virus infection can remain in the system even if it does not present itself with active symptoms. This is also why disease may be spread even when a person feels healthy.
Organisms and Infectious Diseases
The different organisms that can be responsible for infectious diseases can also be responsible for extreme differences in treatment. This is due to the fact that the organisms will each respond to specific drugs and medications that may not have an impact on other causes. This means that the protocols for treating a parasite or fungus can involve actions that are not the same as treating a virus. The reasons have to do with the lifecycle of the organism, and once this is identified it can lead to a specific treatment approach.
While bacteria can cause very swift and severe infectious diseases, such as strep throat or tuberculosis, they will also respond to a broad spectrum of antibiotics. This can make cases of bacterial infections that are caught early much simpler to treat. Viruses can be somewhat slower acting, and are responsible for illnesses such as HIV or a variety of strains of the flu. They tend to be responsive only to certain anti-virals, and can also go into remission while still remaining present in the body. This is largely due to the fact that viruses impact cellular DNA when they replicate.
Fungi can lead to extreme systemic infections and can be difficult to eradicate. Illnesses that are caused by a fungus, such as ringworm, can also remain present in the body even when symptoms are not immediately noticeable. These infectious diseases can take several rounds of treatment in order to restore full wellness, and can be easily re-contracted. Parasites will also tend to cause illnesses that can be harder to remedy. Treatment will need to include the possibility of multiple generations living in the host, and this can lead to extended therapeutic protocols.
Prevention of Infectious Diseases
The best form of prevention for infectious diseases is to limit contact or exposure to environments and situations that can transfer organisms. In the simplest sense, this may include basic hygiene, but can also extend to the use of surface disinfectants and anti-bacterials on the environment and on the person. Some pathogens are airborne, in which case a physical barrier such as a surgical mask can prevent contamination.