News from the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation – News from the World

As I worry about staying healthy these days, I have a growing curiosity about germs. I know they can make you sick, but I don’t know much beyond that.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a germ is a living substance that can develop into an organism or one of its parts. They are found everywhere, including in the air, in the ground and in the water. Infectious diseases are caused by germs. There are four main types: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.

Bacteria are tiny living microorganisms that are not plants or animals, but a class of their own. They are tiny and unicellular, and usually come in the millions. There are good and bad bacteria, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Some are used to make medicines and vaccines. Infections caused by bacteria include strep, urinary tract infections, and tuberculosis.

Viruses are not living organisms and must be in living cells in order to multiply. Some viruses only live for a short time, especially when they are on a hard surface. Their life requires the hijacking of the activity of a living cell. Viruses are responsible for many diseases, including the common cold, flu, measles, chickenpox, shingles, and genital herpes.

Fungi are multicellular, plant-like organisms that cannot get their nourishment from plants, humans and animals. They live in damp, warm places. Many mushrooms are harmless to healthy people. Examples of fungal diseases are athlete’s foot and ringworm.

Protozoa are unicellular organisms that love moisture and often spread disease through water. Protozoa often cause intestinal infections that lead to diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain. Examples are Giardia, Malaria and Toxoplasmosis.

Germs entering the body tend to dig in for a long stay. They take up nutrients and energy and produce toxins or proteins that act like poison in the body. These toxins can cause infection, fever, runny nose, rashes, coughs, vomiting, and diarrhea.

While most germs do no harm, they can spread between people by touching or inhaling air after a person with a germ coughs or sneezes. Germs are often found in feces (humans and animals). Some survive when people touch and then rub their eyes, nose, or mouth. Insects and animal bites can also transmit germs.

Did you know that one germ can multiply to more than eight million germs in one day? Almost 80 percent of disease-causing germs are transmitted through your hands, which spread 1000 times more germs when wet. Germs can survive on your hands for up to three hours. Remote controls are a top carrier of bacteria. Also, there are more germs on your phone, keyboard, and cutting board than on a toilet seat.

Your immune system protects you from many infectious agents, but you need to be careful not to put yourself at risk. Simple tactics like washing your hands regularly, conserving food properly, avoiding contact with sick people, keeping surfaces clean, and getting vaccinated are the best way to stay disease free.

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