Worldwide, infections are a very common cause of human disease and death. Clean
water, sanitary handling of food, control of insect and animal sources of infection,
use of vaccinations, and antibiotics have made infectious diseases usually less common
causes of illness and death in the U.S. Still, even before the coronavirus pandemic,
infections were among the top ten most frequent killers. And with 281,000
deaths by December 5, 2020, COVID-19 is already a leading cause of death in the
U.S. in 2020.
Infectious diseases are illnesses caused by germs or other pathogens. These organisms
include bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, protozoa, and helminths (worms).
They are acquired by exposure to other infected people, from insect and animal
bites, by ingesting contaminated food or water, or by being exposed to organisms
in the environment. An infection occurs when a pathogen overcomes the body’s
immune defenses and gets established somewhere in or on the body. An infection
can occur almost anywhere but typically affects the skin or the respiratory, gastrointestinal,
or urogenital systems. Most infections provoke an immune response and
clear up after a few days.
Despite much progress in preventing and curing infectious diseases, they are still
with us. New causes continue to emerge, and some well-known and well-controlled
infectious diseases such as measles have re-emerged as threats. Natural genetic
variations in bacteria and viruses allow new strains of unknown and known pathogens,
such as influenza and coronaviruses, to evolve and cause disease because
our immune system has not previously encountered them. Increased contact with
reservoirs of disease in wild animals such as monkeys and bats is also a source of
new human infections. The viral cause of HIV/AIDS and the coronavirus now
sweeping the world are likely to have been transmitted to humans from infections
in wild animals.
Widespread and often unnecessary, use of antimicrobial drugs (antibiotics) in both
humans and industrial-scale animal farming has led to the development of antibiotic-
resistant pathogens. An estimated 21 million pounds of medically important
antibiotics are used in food animals every year—three times the amount sold for use
in humans. This has made many infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria,
and MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus), that were once susceptible
to antibiotic drugs, much more difficult to control and cure. In 2019 the CDC
estimated that antibiotic-resistant infections lead to 2.8 million infections from at
least 18 different pathogens and more than 35,000 deaths a year. In 2017, nearly
223,900 people in the United States required hospital care for C. difficile, and at
least 12,800 people died. Since 2009 fungal infections with the yeast Candida auris
have emerged, and some infections are resistant to all antifungal agents. Infections
with some strains of Candida auris result in death rates up to 60%.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.