Infectious diseases are disorders caused by organisms - such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Many organisms live in and on our bodies. They're normally harmless or even helpful, but under certain conditions, some organisms may cause disease.
Some infections, such as the flu virus, can be passed from person to person. Some are transmitted by bites from insects or animals like malaria or Lyme’s Disease. And others, including E.coli, are acquired by ingesting contaminated food or water or being exposed to organisms in the environment.
Here are some tips to keep yourself and others free of disease-causing organisms:
- Wash your hands. This is especially important before and after preparing food, before eating, and after using the toilet. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands, as that's a common way germs enter the body. Don't share personal items. Use your own toothbrush, comb and razor. Avoid sharing drinking glasses or dining utensils.
- Stay home when ill. Don't go to work if you are vomiting, have diarrhea or have a fever. Don't send your child to school or daycare if he or she has these signs and symptoms.
- Get vaccinated. Immunization can drastically reduce your chances of contracting many diseases. Make sure to keep up to date on your recommended vaccinations, as well as your children's vaccinations.
- Travel wisely. If you're traveling out of the country, talk to your doctor about any special vaccinations — such as yellow fever, cholera, hepatitis A or B, or typhoid fever — you may need.
- Prepare food safely. Keep counters and other kitchen surfaces clean when preparing meals. Cook foods to the proper temperature using a food thermometer to check for doneness. For ground meats, that means at least 160 F (71 C); for poultry, 165 F (74 C); and for most other meat, at least 145 F (63 C). In addition, promptly refrigerate leftovers — don't let cooked foods remain at room temperature for extended periods of time.
- Practice safe sex. Always use condoms if you or your partner has a history of sexually transmitted infections or high-risk behavior.