Infectious Diseases - Symptoms, Types, Causes, Prevention and Test
Some diseases are not caused by dysfunction or illness but are instead transmitted into your body from outside sources. Disease-causing pathogens or microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites, fungi, or viruses can be held responsible for these diseases. They are called infectious diseases. Infectious diseases often begin with mild symptoms that increase rapidly. Hence, a person with an infectious disease needs immediate medical attention.
Difference Between Infectious and Non-Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases are contagious and can be easily transmitted from one person to another. Hence, if you have met somebody sick and started feeling the same symptoms shortly after, you may have been infected by the same disease.
Some examples of infectious diseases are the common cold, tuberculosis, COVID-19, STDs, etc.
Non-infectious diseases are caused by dysfunction or illness in your body and cannot be transmitted from one person to another, i.e., they are not contagious.
Types of Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases can be classified into five major types based on the transmission agent that has caused the disease. They are as listed below:
- Viral infections: These are caused by DNA/RNA-carrying microorganisms that enter your body, typically through your nose, mouth, eyes, or ear and use your body's internal mechanisms to replicate themselves. Common viral infections are the common cold, influenza, COVID-19, etc.
- Bacterial infections: These are caused by toxic single-celled microorganisms that might enter your body and release toxins that travel through the blood. Common bacterial infections are tuberculosis, whooping cough, UTIs, etc.
- Fungal infections: These are caused when pre-existing fungi cells on your body overgrow and enter the blood through any openings. Common fungal infections are ringworm, vaginal candidiasis, etc.
- Parasitic infections: These are caused by organisms that use our bodies for their own benefit while draining them of nutrition and harming them. Common parasitic infections are hookworms, pinworms, etc.
- Prion infections: These are caused when proteins in your body start to malfunction and cause other proteins to malfunction too.
Of all these categories, prion infections are the most dangerous as they cannot be cured. However, these infections are quite rare.
Symptoms of Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases can show various types of symptoms depending on the organism that has caused the infection. However, some of the common symptoms of these diseases include:
Symptoms of infectious diseases can often turn severe if they remain untreated.
When Should You See a Doctor?
You should consult a doctor immediately if you start feeling any symptoms after being in any of the following situations:
- Bitten by any animal or insect
- Coming into contact with someone who is sick
- Physical intimacy with someone, including kissing or oral, anal, or vaginal sex
- Attending public events or crowded activities
- Eating or drinking contaminated/unprepared/spoiled food or drinks
- Touching contaminated utensils, rooms, bedsheets, etc.
- Undergoing surgeries, implantations, or blood transfusions
- Facing any physical injuries
- Meeting with an accident resulting in physical injuries
Tests to Detect Infectious Diseases
Your doctor or medical provider may recommend the following tests to detect and confirm infectious diseases:
- Swabbing tests, which include testing your saliva for infections
- Blood tests, in which a sample of your blood is tested
- Urine tests, where your urine samples are used to test for infections
- Stool tests include testing your stool samples for the disease
- Imaging tests that include X-rays, MRIs, and CT-scans
Depending on the type of test and the rarity of your disease, you might have to wait 24 to 48 hours to receive the test results.
Treatment for Infectious Diseases
Once your test results are back, your doctor will prescribe suitable medications to treat your symptoms. Some of the common medications include:
- Antibiotics for treating bacterial infections
- Over-the-counter pills to help suppress the symptoms of diseases caused by viruses
- Antifungal medications in the case of fungal infections
- Anti-parasite drugs for the treatment of infections caused by parasites
Tips for Preventing Infectious Diseases
As per the WHO, infectious diseases kill over 17 million people every year worldwide. Hence, it is important to be cautious and prevent contracting infectious diseases. Here are some healthy habits and hygiene practices that can help you control most of the common infectious diseases:
- Wash your hands regularly before and after eating food, touching any surfaces that might be contaminated, or getting into physical contact with any person who might be infected or sick. Developing the habit of using a bacteria-killing handwash can help you stay safe.
- Use safe sex and use contraceptives to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
- Do not consume food that might be spoiled, frozen, or kept outside for a long time.
- Clean the surfaces of your home every once in a while to avoid bacteria buildup. You can also use anti-bacterial surface cleaners to make this practice more effective.
- Keep your bed clean and dry, and change your bedsheets frequently. You should also ensure proper ventilation in your bedroom. Bacteria often build up in areas with low ventilation and moisture or humidity.
You should consult your doctor or a medical practitioner for more information on preventing infectious diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can Infectious Diseases Cause Death?
Ans: Most infectious diseases can be cured. However, some infectious diseases can become severe if left untreated and cause organ failure, leading to death.
Q: What are the Five Common Signs of Contagious Diseases?
Ans: The most common indications of infectious diseases are fever, sore throat, chills and sweats, coughing, and weakness or body pain.
Q: Who is Most Vulnerable to Infection?
Ans: People with low immunity are most vulnerable to infections. They include children, infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people suffering from severe health conditions.