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Diseases are defined as a condition of a living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs the performance of a vital function.

In other words - they really suck!

Some are merely a nuisance, others can be debilitating, while the big boys can be positively fatal. A disease caused by a bacterial agent can usually be treated with anitbiotics, however, there is nothing that can kill a viral disease (the only way to fight a viral infection is to develop antibodies through vacines.) For ease of reference, we will examine diseases in three categories, bacterial, viral, and sexually transmitted (which includes both bacterial and viral).

The following is a list of some of our favorite diseases, which are not spread by sexual contact.…

Legionnaires' disease

This tough customer takes its name from an outbreak at the Pennsylvania American Legion convention held in a hotel in Philadelphia, Pa. In1976. During this outbreak, 34 people died (29 Legionnaires and their family members and five others how had been near the hotel. The disease was diagnosed for the first time after 221 people contracted the illness in Philly.

The bacterium believed to cause the illness is found in soil and grows in water, such as the air conditioning units of large hotels, office complexes and hospitals.

The American Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. Estimates that 25,000 people a year get the disease, whose pneumonia-like symptoms begin two to three days after exposure to the bacterium.


Anthrax (no, not the heavy metal band) is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in warm-blooded animals, but can also infect humans. It is most common in agricultural areas where it occurs in animals - regions include include South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Anthrax in animals rarely occurs in the United States. Most reports of animal infection are received from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: skin infection, inhalation, and gastrointestinal. The disease's spores can live in the soil for many years and humans can become infected with anthrax by handling animal products from infected animals; by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products; or by eating undercooked meat from infected animals.

The symptoms of disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but usually occur within a week.

Skin infection: Most anthrax infections occur when the bacterium enters a cut or abrasion on the skin, such as when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals. Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a bump, usually 1-3 cm in diameter, with a black area in the center. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell. About 20 percent of untreated will result in death.

Inhalation: Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation anthrax usually results in death in 1-2 days after onset of the acute symptoms.

Intestinal: The intestinal disease form of anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal anthrax results in death in 25 to 60 percent of cases (it's one mean bug!).

Doctors can prescribe effective antibiotics. Usually penicillin is preferred. To be effective, treatment should be initiated early. If left untreated, the disease can and often is fatal.


Cholera is a diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes it can be severe. Approximately one in 20 infected persons has severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these persons, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. The cholera bacterium may also live in the environment in brackish rivers and coastal waters. Shellfish eaten raw have been a source of cholera, and a few persons in the United States have contracted cholera after eating raw or undercooked shellfish from the Gulf of Mexico. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another.

In the United States, cholera was prevalent in the 1800s but has been virtually eliminated by modern sewage and water treatment systems. However, parts of Latin America, Africa, or Asia still experience epidemic-levels of this disease.

All travelers to areas where cholera has occured should observe the following recomendations:

1) Drink only water that you have boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine. Other safe beverages include tea and coffee made with boiled water and carbonated, bottled beverages with no ice.

2) Eat only foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruit that you have peeled yourself.

3) Avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish.

4) Make sure all vegetables are cooked - avoid salads.

5) Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors.

A simple rule of thumb is "Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it. "

The disease can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. Patients can be treated with oral rehydration solution, a prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts to be mixed with water and drunk in large amounts. This solution is used throughout the world to treat diarrhea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt rehydration, fewer than 1 percent of cholera patients die. Antibiotics shorten the course and diminish the severity of the illness, but they are not as important as rehydration.

Typhoid feverTyphoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. In the United States about 400 cases occur each year, and 70 percent of these are acquired while traveling internationally. The disease is still common in the so-called developing world, where it affects about 12.5 million persons each year. Typhoid fever can be prevented and can usually be treated with antibiotics. Salmonella Typhi lives only in humans. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed S. Typhi in their feces. You can get typhoid fever if you eat food or drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding S. Typhi or if sewage contaminated with S. Typhi bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food. Therefore, typhoid fever is more common in areas of the world where hand-washing is less frequent and water is likely to be contaminated with sewage. Once S. Typhi bacteria are eaten or drunk, they multiply and spread into the bloodstream. The body reacts with fever and other signs and symptoms. Persons with typhoid fever usually have a sustained fever as high as 103° to 104° F (39° to 40° C). They may also feel weak, or have stomach pains, headache, or loss of appetite. In some cases, patients have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. The only way to know for sure if an illness is typhoid fever is to have samples of feces or blood tested for the presence of S. Typhi. Typhoid fever is common in most parts of the world except in industrialized regions such as the United States, Canada, western Europe, Australia, and Japan. Therefore, if you are traveling to the so-called developing world, you should consider taking precautions. Two basic actions can protect you from typhoid fever: 1) Avoid risky foods and drinks. 2) Get vaccinated against typhoid fever. Watching what you eat and drink when you travel is as important as being vaccinated. This is because the vaccines are not completely effective. Treatment of the disease usually includes being given a dose of antibiotics. Persons given antibiotics usually begin to feel better within two to three days, and deaths rarely occur. However, persons who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months, and as many as 20 percent may die from complications of the infection. Lyme DiseaseLyme disease transmitted by ticks (deer ticks and western black-legged ticks) that become infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that cause Lyme disease. People get the disease when these ticks infected with the Lyme disease bacteria bite them.It works something like this…. Feeding on small rodents, such as the white-footed mouse, and other mammals that are infected with the bacteria infects immature ticks. In later stages, these ticks then transmit the Lyme disease bacteria to humans and other mammals during the feeding process. The Lyme disease bacteria are maintained in the blood systems of small rodents. You cannot get the bacteria from touching or kissing a person who has Lyme disease, or from a health care worker who has treated someone with the disease.The signs and symptoms of the disease can set in within days to weeks following a tick bite, 80 percent of patients will have a red, slowly expanding "bull's-eye" rash accompanied by general tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, and joint pain. If untreated, weeks to months later some patients may develop arthritis, including intermittent episodes of swelling and pain in the large joints; neurologic abnormalities, such as aseptic meningitis, facial palsy, motor and sensory nerve inflammation and inflammation of the brain; and, rarely, cardiac problems, such as inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart or enlarged heart. Lyme disease is rarely, if ever, fatal. Lyme disease is the leading cause of vector-borne infectious illness in the U.S. with about 15,000 cases reported annually, though the disease is greatly underreported. Based on reported cases, during the past 10 years 90 percent of cases of Lyme disease occurred in states in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper north-central regions, and several counties in northwestern California.Lyme disease is most common during the late spring and summer months in the U.S. (May through August) when ticks are most active and human populations are frequently outdoors and most exposed.Antibiotic treatment for 3-4 weeks is generally effective in early disease. Later disease, particularly with neurologic manifestations, may require treatment with intravenous antibiotics for four weeks or more, depending on disease severity.Chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by Varicella zoster virus and is usually mild, but it may be severe in infants, adults and persons with impaired immune systems. Almost everyone gets chickenpox by adulthood (more than 95 percent of all Americans). Chickenpox is highly contagious. It is estimated that in America 4 million cases occur each year. The virus is spread from person to person by direct contact, or through the air. Approximately 90percent of persons in a household who have not had chickenpox will get it if exposed to an infected family member. The greatest number of cases of chickenpox occurs in the late winter and spring.

Chickenpox has a characteristic itchy rash, which then forms blisters that dry and become scabs in 4­5 days. The rash may be the first sign of illness, sometimes coupled with fever and general malaise which is usually more severe in adults. An infected person may have anywhere from only a few lesions to more than 500 lesions on their body during an attack (with an average 300­400). Adults are more likely to have a more serious case of chickenpox with a higher rate of complications and death. Chickenpox is contagious one to two days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. Chickenpox develops within 10­21 days after contact with an infected person.

Every year there are approximately 5,000­9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths from chickenpox in the United States.

There is a vaccine for chickenpox which is gaining popularity in the U.S. for combatting the disease. However, many doctors recommend exposing a child to the disease in the primary school years.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, a microorganism which is usually transmitted by ticks. The disease affects about 800 people in the United States each year. The disease usually occurs in the eastern US from New York to Florida, and from Alabama to Texas in the south (or roughly in the area of the Appalachian Mountains, for which it is not named). It is most commonly seen from April through September but can occur anytime during the year when there is warm weather.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is spread to people by the bites of some ticks. Signs of the disease usually begin 3 to 12 days after a tick bite. The most common symptoms are fever, headache, rash, and nausea or vomiting. The mortality rate for Rocky Mountain spotted fever is less than 10 percent if an antibiotic is started promptly. Some patients may require supportive therapies, such as intravenous fluids, steroids, and nasogastric feedings. Improvement should be rapid (36 to 48 hours).

Although there is no vaccine for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, it can be prevented. The best way to avoid getting the disease is to avoid areas such as the woods or fields where ticks are found.

If you ignore this advice and go into the woods anyway, and you get a fever, headaches, rash, or nausea within two weeks of a possible tick bite or exposure you should see your doctor immediately. And don't say we didn't warn you.


Rabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) that is almost always fatal. Rabies in humans is very rare in the U.S., but rabies in ground animals - especially wildlife - is common in some parts of the country. The rabies virus lives in the saliva (spit) and other body fluids of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. The virus can also be spread if one of these body fluids touches broken skin or a mucous membrane (in the mouth, nose or eyes). In caves crowded with bats, it is possible to inhale the virus floating in the air.

The rabies virus can infect any mammal (if it has hair or fur, it's a mammal), but it is only common among certain ones like bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons. Cats, dogs and livestock can also get rabies - and spread it to their owners - if they do not have special shots to protect them. Rabies is very rare among rodents like squirrels, rats, mice and chipmunks. Birds, fish, snakes, lizards, turtles, and insects cannot spread rabies.

Rabid animals often behave strangely after the virus attacks their brains. Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no real reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem to be unnaturally friendly. Not all rabid animals act this way, however, so you should avoid all wild animals - especially bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons. Also, you should not feed or touch stray cats and dogs.

If you have been bitten or scratched by a stray or wild animal, or by a pet or farm animal that has been behaving strangely, follow these steps:

  • Wash the wound with soap and water right away for at least five minutes.

  • Call your local board of health and your doctor, nurse or health center as soon as you finish washing. They will help you decide if you need to be treated for rabies. Follow their instructions to the letter.

  • Contact your local animal control officer to catch or find the animal that scratched or bit you. Your local board of health can tell you how to get it tested by the state rabies lab.

  • If your pet has been bitten or scratched by an animal you think might be rabid, wear gloves to touch it. Follow the steps above but call your pet's veterinarian instead of your own doctor in step 2.

People who have never received a rabies vaccine shot are given six shots over the course of a month. (Rabies shots are no longer given in the belly.) One shot is antibodies to fight the virus, and the rest are vaccine to ensure long-lasting protection. To work best, the shots should begin as soon after the bite or scratch as possible. However, if the animal has been caught and can be tested for rabies, some doctors wait for the test results to see if the shots are really needed.


"The flu" is often confused with other viral respiratory infections like the common cold, however influenza infection often causes a more severe illness. Common symptoms include fever (usually 100F to 103F in adults and often even higher in children) and respiratory symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as headache, muscle aches, and often extreme fatigue. Although nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms are rarely prominent.

Most people who get the flu recover completely in 1 to 2 weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia. In an average year, influenza is associated with about 20,000 deaths nationwide and many more hospitalizations. Flu-related complications can occur at any age; however, the elderly and people with chronic health problems are much more likely to develop serious complications after influenza infection than are younger, healthier people.

Influenza viruses are divided into three types, designated A, B, and C. Influenza types A and B are responsible for epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter and are often associated with increased rates for hospitalization and death. Type C infection usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all; it does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact that influenza types A and B do.

We catch influenza again and again because the viruses continually change over time, usually by mutation. This constant changing enables the virus to evade the immune system of its host, so that people are susceptible to influenza virus infection throughout life. This process works as follows: a person infected with influenza virus develops antibody against that virus; as the virus changes, the "older" antibody no longer recognizes the "newer" virus, and reinfection can occur. The older antibody can, however, provide partial protection against reinfection.

During this century, influenza epidemics occurred in 1918, 1957, and 1968, each of which resulted in large numbers of deaths. In 1918-19, the so-called "Spanish flu" caused the highest known influenza-related mortality: approximately 500,000 deaths occurred in the United States, 20 million worldwide. In 1957-58, the "Asian flu" caused 70,000 deaths in the United States. And in 1968-69, the "Hong-Kong flu" killed 34,000 n the United States.

Anti-influenza vaccines (flu shots) are recommended annually for people who are 65 years of age or older, anyone with chronic heart or lung conditions, and those living in institutions. The vaccine has a 60 to 70 percent success rate in preventing infection. The goal of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Bed rest, analgesics (painkillers) for muscle aches and pains, and warm fluids may help to relieve the discomfort of the symptoms.

Symptoms usually go away in 7 to 10 days. In rare cases, influenza may cause a severe pneumonia that may be fatal even in healthy adults.

Hemmorhagic Fever

Ebola is in the same family of diseases as Marburg, affectionately known as long rabies because of the shape of the virus. Its initial symptoms closely resemble that of the common influenza, although it is only transmittable through contact between bodily fluids unlike the flu. In its advanced stages, the ebola virus' protein shell is large enough to tear the vessel walls in the blood vessels, causing convulsions, liquidification of the internal organs, hemophilia and finally a bleed-out where the vessels simply burst.

Ebola Zaire is the deadliest version of this disease, killing 9 out of every 10 victims. Right behind it is Ebola Sudan, which only kills 7 out of 10 and was discovered in the later 1970s. The third variation is called Ebola Reston, after Reston, Virginia. This is the only type of ebola to actually have been seen in the United States of America. It was discovered in Reston, less than 50 miles outside of Washington DC in the mid-80s. A small monkey house noticed that several of their monkeys had bled out and called the CDC. When it was identified as ebola, the monkey house was quaranteed and the CDC rushed to investigate. Hundreds of monkeys died of Ebola Reston, but the ironic thing is that it
proved to cause nothing more serious than flu symptoms in humans.

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