Lice are a type of insect that we often associate with animals. But there are different types of lice, some of which can infest humans. These lice can be very specific for the area of the body that it will infest. Most of us have heard of head lice infestation, a fairly common problem among young schoolchildren. But there are also different types of lice that will infest the body and even the groin region specifically. Lice infestation can be treated and prevented. It is not a disease as such because the lice do not live on or in the body. It feeds on human blood several times in a day and while its saliva can irritate the skin, it rarely leads to any complications.
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Although flu season peaks in January to February in the United States, it starts from as early as October. Therefore the most recent flu vaccines will be available in September. The seasonal flu is not a huge cause for concern. It affects large numbers of the population, most commonly in the flu season, and the virus is such that it rarely ever leads to death. But in the wake of new strains of the influenza virus and mutations that have allowed it to cross species, everybody is scrambling to take the vaccine or stock up on antivirals.
We are exposed to millions of bacteria in our environment everyday. Some species are harmful, while others are less so. The skin and the various defense mechanisms at the different entry points in the body ensure that these bacteria do not enter the body. One of the common ways to get an infection caused by bacteria is through food. Here the bacteria may thrive within the food and eventually the contaminated food may contain millions of bacteria that will be subsequently consumed during a meal.
Once these bacteria are within the gut, it has essentially bypassed the defensive capabilities of the skin and entry points. The bacteria could be destroyed by the body but it may also cause disease. Sometimes the bacteria are neutralized but the toxins it had produced can still cause disease. An infection with foodborne bacteria tends to affect the gut only and is restricted by the immune system from penetrating further into the body. It typically causes diarrhea but may also cause vomiting, fever and abdominal pain.
Many parents are cautious about using over-the-counter (OTC) medication to treat a cold in very young children and rightfully so. These drugs, while safe for teen and adult use, is not considered safe for young children. Widespread media attention about the dangers of using cold medicines has not been sufficient to stop the practise entirely – many parents continue to administer OTC cold medicines to their children despite being told not to. It results in thousands of emergency room visits every year, which could have been avoided if parents were more cautious.
Cold medicines can cause a range of side effects in children, some of which are very serious. Although the incidence of childhood death from using cold medicines is very low, it is nevertheless a possibility and most cautious parents would rather not take the chance. Some authorities advise that cold medicines should be avoided in children under 2 years only but now it is being recommended that these drugs should not be administered to children under 4 years of age. Using it in children who are older should be done so with caution and only with proper advice from a doctor and/or pharmacist.
As public awareness about prevalent diseases like HIV increases, there is still some confusion about medical terms and the meaning of some of these words. Many people know what HIV/AIDS is in a broad sense, what it happens in the body to some extent and how it is contracted. Given the prevalence of HIV/AIDS these days, it is important to know many of the related medical terms that are widely used. Even if you do not have the diseases, understanding the meaning of these words will help you better relate to friends, family and colleagues who are living with HIV or have AIDS.
HIV infection and AIDS remains a global health concern. While greater awareness about the disease has helped in curbing the number of new cases in some parts of the world, it continues to spread unabated in other geographical areas. Advances in antiretroviral therapy (ART) means that people living with HIV and AIDS patients can now live longer. But it is not a cure. The key to curbing the HIV pandemic is prevention primarily through lifestyle measures as no vaccine is yet available.
Are you planning to travel soon to a high risk area for malaria? Have you educated yourself about this dangerous infectious disease? Malaria is a life-threatening infection caused by the Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes. It can be prevented and even cured but malaria claims the lives of over 600,000 people every year. Travelers who are not immune and do not take the necessary precautions are very vulnerable to contracting malaria. There is currently no vaccine to protect you against malaria although there is ongoing research in the field. A few practical tips can make all the difference in preventing malaria.
Check Malaria Areas
It is important to find out if the area you are visiting is in fact a malaria-endemic area or not. Do not depend on travel agents and the advice of friends or family who may be seasoned travelers. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has detailed malaria map applications that will provide accurate information for travelers. Malaria may occur throughout some countries, or only in certain regions of a country. However, you need to be fully aware of the high risk areas even if you are traveling to parts of a country where malaria transmission is not known to occur. You may change your travel plans while on vacation and find yourself inadequately prepared in a high risk area.
Bed bugs are tiny insects belonging to the Cimicid family of parasites. These bugs survive by feeding on the blood of mammals like humans. The most common of the bed bug species is Cimex lectularius which has a preference for human blood. These insects are commonly referred to as bed bugs as they tend to hide in mattresses, headboards and bed frames during the day. They emerge at night to feed on sleeping human hosts. The oval-shaped adult bed bug is about 4 to 5 millimeters long and up to 3 millimeters wide. It has a light brown to reddish brown color.
Bed bugs feed for between 3 to 10 minutes on a person. After fully feeding it becomes engorged and then retreats. Usually bed bugs live in close vicinity to humans but does not reside on the human body. Its bite and subsequent feeding causes red spots on the skin which are usually orientated in a line or clusters. The site of the bite is typically itchy. Bed bugs more often feed on the face, neck, arms and hands and to a lesser degree on the legs. It can feed at any site on the body and the location of the bite depends on where it can easily gain access and the warmth of the area.
With the 2012-2013 flu season being one of the worst in recent years, there is widespread concern about how the flu should be prevented, treated and managed. The fact is that the same medical guidelines that have applied for preceding flu seasons should be followed closely. There is no ‘cure’ for the flu although antiviral drugs like oseltamivir (branded as Tamiflu) and zanamivir (branded as Relenza) have contributed greatly to reducing the severity and duration of the infection and preventing complications. However, the focus on supportive measures is often forgotten such as strict bed rest, plenty of fluids and a balanced diet.
What is H3N2?
H3N2 is a subtype of the influenza A virus, the pathogen that causes the seasonal influenza. There are many subtypes of influenza A and H3N2 is one of them, just like H1N1 which caused the “swine flu” epidemic of 2009. Human H3N2 viruses are a common cause of the seasonal flu but now there is a new H3N2 variant which is also a “swine flu” virus. It causes the flu in pigs and was almost never seen in humans until recently. This H3N2 is associated with a more severe seasonal flu in humans these days, leading to complications, need for hospitalization and even deaths in high risk individuals.
What is H3N2v?
H3N2v is a variant of the virus which infects humans. Normally this type of H3N2 affects pigs but when it occurs in humans then it is called a variant virus and in this case marked as H3N2v. Although influenza A is the main cause of seasonal flu throughout the world, there are also other types known as influenza B and influenza C.
What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis, or Weil’s disease, is an infectious disease caused by Leptospira bacteria. It is a zoonotic infection meaning that it is transmitted from animals to humans. Leptospirosis in humans is mainly contracted through either direct or indirect contact with urine of the infected animal. It can also be spread through contact with the infected animal’s kidneys or products of conception. The infected animals are usually asymptomatic but leptospirosis can be a very severe infectious disease in humans and even lead to multi-organ failure. Overall leptospirosis is a rare infection but the incidence is on the rise. Apart from occupational hazards among animal workers, the infection can be transmitted though pets, pests like rats and contaminated fresh water sources.
Dracunculiasis is a nematode (parasitic worm) infection caused by the guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis. It is also known as guinea worm disease (GWD). It has become a very rare infection due to various eradication campaigns globally over the past quarter of a century. Dracunculiasis may be eradicated completely in years to come. The worm enters the gut through contaminated water and then migrates to the skin once it matures. A guinea worm infection is rarely serious to the point where it causes major debility or death. However, bacterial infections may arise at the site where the worm erupts from the skin. In rare cases, the bacterial infection can complicate to the point of sepsis which may be life-threatening.
Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal infection mainly isolated to the lung that arises with inhaling the airborne spores of the Coccidioides fungi. It is also known as valley fever and is a common infection among people who live in endemic areas. Coccidioidomycosis is often asymptomatic and when people living in endemic areas develop the infection, it is usually acute. However, some patients do develop a very severe infection that can be chronic. Coccidioidomycosis is a relatively common cause of death in AIDS patients living in endemic regions, especially if the appropriate treatment is not forthcoming.
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection of the lung, which may spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, after inhaling the spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. Most people who come in contact with the spores do not contract the infection unless they have a weakened immune system or if they are exposed to large quantities of the fungal spores. People who live in endemic areas for histoplasmosis are more likely to be infected. Due to its predilection to mainly affect immunocompromised patients, it is considered as an AIDS-defining illness. Severe cases that are left untreated can be fatal.
Isosporiasis is an infectious disease caused by a single-celled organism (protozoan), Isospora belli, that is marked by diarrhea and other intestinal symptoms. These days the infection is known as cystoisosporiasis and the protozoan is Cystoisospora belli, however, the former name isosporiasis is still widely used. Isosporiasis is a self-limiting infection and while treatment can hasten recovery, it is not always necessary and the infection does not usually lead to complications in most people. However, immunocompromised patients are at risk of the infection spreading beyond the intestines. AIDS patients are at the greatest risk in this regard. Isosporiasis is an uncommon infection that is spread through contaminated food or water.
What is nocardiosis?
Nocardiosis is an infectious disease caused by the Nocardio group of bacteria that are found in soil. It can also infect animals, especially horses and cows. Human nocardiosis is a rare condition but can be extremely dangerous in a person with a weakened immune system. The infection may be localized to the skin, lungs, or disseminated where it affects any organ in the body and the brain in particular. Nocardiosis can be acute, subacute or chronic. It requires prolonged treatment with antibiotics an is potentially fatal in severe cases. In the United States, Nocardia asteroides are the main species of Nocardia bacteria responsible for human nocardiosis.
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