Information on the causes and symptoms of bacterial infections.
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- Causes of Bacterial Infections
- Types of Bacterial Infections
- Symptoms of Bacterial Infections
- Preventing Bacterial Infections
- Help for Bacterial Infections
Causes of Bacterial Infections
Bacterial infections occur when single-celled bacterium infect the body and begin to divide. Bacterial infections tend to affect a single person, for example when someone gets food poisoning after eating contaminated food. In some cases, a bacterial illness can spread quickly throughout a population. Some of the worst pandemics in history were the result of bacterial infections, including the Bubonic plague or “black death” that killed an estimated 75-100 million people around the world in the 1300s.
Bacterial infections are identified and confirmed with examinations and lab tests. Most can be treated successfully with antibiotic medications when they are discovered early enough. Overuse of antibiotics, however, has led to some drug resistant forms of bacteria known as “super germs”.
Types of Bacterial Infections
Millions of strains of bacteria exist and many of them live in the intestines and on the skin. The vast majority are harmless and do not cause infection or illness. Many strains are essential for good health and help the body to resist infection. Acidophilus is a healthy strain of bacteria many people are familiar with. It is often sold as a dietary supplement and added to foods to promote healthy intestines.
Pathogens are the harmful bacteria that gain access to the body and crowd out healthy bacteria, causing illness. Common pathogenic bacteria strains include foodborne pathogens like Salmonella and E coli. Infections like pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome, cellulitis and wound infections called staph infections come from the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Some sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrhea are also bacterial infections.
Many bacterial illnesses are quite severe, may be contagious and can result in serious complications that can be life threatening when left untreated.
Symptoms of Bacterial Infections
Bacterial illness symptoms vary depending on the area of the body infected, the age of the person, general health and type of bacteria. Some bacterial infections have similar symptoms to viral illnesses like colds or flu, and viral illnesses can often make people more susceptible to bacterial infections due to compromised immunity.
Fever is common in nearly all bacterial infections. Other symptoms may include localized pain in the infected region, stiff neck, rashes or skin lesions, weakness, loss of appetite and lethargy. Serious symptoms like high fever above 101 degrees, difficulty breathing, delirium, confusion, seizures or the inability to urinate require immediate medical attention.
Preventing Bacterial Infections
Bacterial infections can be prevented in several ways. The most important way to resist infection is through good hygiene practices. Washing hands with soap and water before eating, after using the restroom and periodically throughout the day can help prevent the spread of germs. Cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly and practicing proper food handling and safety are also important.
Foodborne pathogens from raw meats can be transferred to cutting surfaces and then transferred to produce. Produce may also contain pathogens and should be washed before eating. All meat and eggs should be cooked thoroughly to avoid illness. High temperatures kill pathogens that can make you sick. Perishable food items should never be left at room temperature for extended periods and any food items that are beyond their expiration date should be discarded.
Help for Bacterial Infections
Eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut to boost levels of good bacteria and keep your immune system functioning properly. When soap and water is not readily available, use all-natural hand sanitizers to kill germs and help prevent infections. Practice good cleansing habits can help prevent and treat infections naturally.