Infectious diseases are a serious health concern. More people are killed by infectious diseases than any other cause. There are differences between types of infections and how each is treated. For example, treatment for a bacterial infection - often with an antibiotic - is different than for viral infections (which don’t respond to antibiotics). That’s why it's important to get expert care.
Our Infectious Disease experts have specialized training to deal with a variety of infections including:
Animal bites which can be very serious, especially if it is from a stray or wild animal. A bite can cause infections or, in rare cases, rabies. You should be seen right away if the bite is deep or you have signs of an infection including pain, swelling, redness, fever and/or chills.
Bacterial infections are caused by tiny, one-celled bacteria. Not all bacteria are bad. In fact, less than 1 percent of bacteria make people sick. Some of the bacterial infections that are diagnosed and treated in Infectious Disease are:
Bacterial infections are often treated with antibiotics. If the infection is severe, the antibiotics may be given intravenously. Serious bacterial infections can also require ongoing laboratory monitoring and regular doctors' visits.
Fungal infections caused by environmental fungi. While most types of fungi are not dangerous, some may be irritating like mild fugal skin infections (think athlete's foot/ringworm) or dangerous like fungal meningitis and fungal infections of the blood or lungs.
Parasitic infections caused by parasites - organism that live on or in a host organism. Parasites that cause diseases in humans include:
- Protozoa such as giardiasis and cryptosporidium
- Helminths such as tapeworms and roundworms
- Ectoparasites such as scabies, fleas, ticks, lice, mites and the pathogens they carry
An infection may result from exposure to contaminated soil or animals, or ingesting contaminated food or water. They are more prevalent in areas with poor sanitary conditions.
Viral infections caused by viruses like those that cause the cold and flu. Unlike bacteria, viruses are not living organisms. They are capsules of genetic material. Viruses invade normal cells and multiply, eventually killing the cell. This is what makes people sick. While some viral infections can be easily treated my your primary care provider, Gundersen Infectious Disease team works to prevent, immunize, diagnose and treat more severe and potentially life-threatening viral illnesses such as:
Antibiotics don't work for viral infections. For some viruses, there are antiviral medications, but not for all. You can be protected from many viral illnesses through vaccination.
There are precautions you can take to prevent the spread of germs such as:
Wash your hands
- Before eating and when you are handling or preparing food
- After using the bathroom or changing a diaper
- When someone in the household is sick
- After handling pets, touching something that could be contaminated or when they look dirty
Practice food preparation safety
- Clean your hands
- Clean and disinfect counters, cutting boards and other surfaces
- Keep food separate to prevent cross-contamination
- Cook food to the proper temperature
- Refrigerate food properly
Get your immunizations
Immunizations are very important to help prevent serious illnesses including:
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis)
- Hepatitis A & B
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preventable diseases are at an all-time low. After years of people receiving immunizations, fewer people have had to suffer from the damaging effects of these illnesses. People can get their immunizations from their primary care physician or at Gundersen's Infectious Disease department.