There are four different causes of infection; bacterial which are single celled organisms, that are composed of a prokaryotic cell. Fungi is a multi cellular organism that gain energy through the decomposition of decaying organisms. Virus, a small body made of protein have some qualities of a living organism but are not considered living things. Finally there are Parasites, which are organisms that gain benefit at the expense of another living organism. One organism benefits while the other is negatively affected. Although this sounds complicated and very technical, at some point during our lives we will have come into contact with all of these different types of infection. Salmonella, tuberculosis, E coli, campylobacter, impetigo, boils and urinary tract infections are all caused by different types of bacteria. Athlete’s foot, nail infections, thrush, ring worm and Intertrigo, are all caused by fungi. Colds, influenza, gastroenteritis, chicken pox, herpes, even HIV is a form of viral infection. Malaria, scabies, head louse, crab louse, bed bugs, tape worm, toxoplasmosis and hookworm are parasite infections.
The term Infection basically means a disease that is caused by a micro organism, bacteria, fungus or virus that enters the body of an organism and colonisation means the spreading of a species into a new habitat which is true of parasite infections. These can be localised meaning they only affect one area of the body or systemic which means they have travelled round the body or have infected more than one area. With systemic infections there are usual more than one symptom for example with influenza a person will have aches and pains, fever, sweats, headache, sore throat etc.
Infections are common and affect people all the time and most are preventable. Poor hygiene is the most common causes of spreading infection, not washing your hands after going to the toilet, not bathing or showering regularly, not washing clothes or cleaning your house, not brushing your teeth or washing your hair, even not washing dishes or cleaning sinks and work surfaces ALL cause the spread of infection. By simply doing all these things yourself dramatically reduce the risk of you catching infections. These are very basic actions but what is most astonishing is that the majority of adults and children fail to do one or more of the daily tasks. Even in places such as hospitals and care homes people do not wash their hands on entering and leaving. Visiting such places if you have a cold or upset tummy can also cause the spread of infection. Again this is mainly down to people not washing their hands or having a tissue to cough and sneeze into. Health care staff not using the correct personal protective equipment, not ensuring sharps are disposed of correctly and safely, ill prepared, stored and cooked food, re-using unsterile equipment, not following procedures especially where highly infectious individuals are concerned are all actions that can cause the spread of infection and all can be prevented.
All micro organisms need certain conditions to grow and reproduce. Warmth, moisture, gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. Without one or more of these things a micro organism cannot grow and multiply. We can reduce the risk of these entering the body by taking precautions and looking after ourselves. There is a chain of infection everyone needs to be aware of,
Infectious agent ——– reservoir ——– portal of exit ——– mode of transmission ——– portal of entry ——– susceptible host
The key part to this chain is ‘the mode of transmission’ and ‘the portal of entry’ as this is how the infection enters the body. The mode of transport can be anything from indirect and direct contact, food, airborne particles, mucus and bodily fluids. All of these carry infections and can be ingested into the body through touching broken skin, through the nose and mouth, open wounds, urinary tract, anal passage, and any medical equipment that may need to be inserted into the body such as catheter tubing, needles, oxygen tubing etc. The most common source of infection, however, is the hands. All though the infection can spread by inhalation and through other orifices like the ears, anus and urinary tract, it is through touch that nearly all infections are passed on. Whether by touching an unclean surface, not washing hands after going to the toilet or before you start to prepare food, not washing hands when visiting a patient in hospital or between touching patients all can spread infections. Hands touch everything and pick up everything. By not washing them regularly the risk of spreading infection dramatically increases.
There are other factors to consider that make it more likely an infection will occur. Not looking after yourself can also greatly increase your chances of getting an infection. Being run down, a poor diet and poor personal hygiene can all make you susceptible to infection. Lifestyle like recreational drug use, alcoholism, numerous sexual partners without using precautions, and sexual orientation also need to be factored in when assessing a person’s risk of catching an infection. Serious illnesses like leukaemia, cancer and dementia also put people at a high risk of infection as they lower the body’s natural ability to be able to fight off infections. For these reasons it is important to always remember to look after yourself and to always wash your hands when visiting a hospital or care home, before and after going to the toilet and before you prepare food. Washing your hands at these key times dramatically reduces the spread of infection and ultimately saves lives.