Alaskapox – Here Comes Another One (Maybe)

Map of Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

Alaskapox Overview

Alaskapox is a recently discovered virus belonging to the orthopoxvirus genus family (viruses that are obtained by human contact with animals). The disease is mainly known for causing skin lesions. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) epidemiologist Julia Rogers who has been assigned to the Alaska Division of Public Health stated: “Orthopoxviruses are zoonotic viruses, meaning that they circulate primarily within animal populations with spill over into humans occasionally,”.

While it shares similarities with other orthopoxviruses like the variola virus (smallpox) and monkeypox, Alaskapox is still a mystery, with only a handful of cases reported.

Microscopic photo of a virus
Alaskapox Cases 

The first individuals to acquire the disease was in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2015, and since then, only seven other cases have been documented as of February 2024, and all of them are in Alaska. Most notably in the city of Fairbanks, which is perplexing.

Symptoms and Treatments

Symptoms typically involve one or more skin lesions, resembling bumps or swelling, accompanied by swollen lymph nodes. Additionally, there may be joint or muscle pain that accompanies it. Some cases involve the lesion to persist for six months or more, while others are resolved within weeks.

So far, there has been only one fatality in 2023, but this was an individual with an underlying health condition who succumbed to the virus. Currently, no specific treatment exists, and recovery relies on the body’s immune response, indicating that those with more healthy immune systems stand a better chance of recovering early.

Ongoing Research

Diagram showing antibodies in the human body

Much research is required, but scientists suspect small mammals like voles and flying squirrels might be carriers, although the transmission process between animals and humans is unclear. While close contact seems a possibility, further investigation is still needed.

Also, the extent of the virus’s geographic distribution and potential for wider spread is undetermined at this time.

Preventive Measures

Given the lack of current information, practicing general hygiene the same as we did with Covid is recommended, especially in the state of Alaska. Frequent handwashing and avoiding contact with sick animals remains prudent and the handling of wild animals or keeping them as pets is not recommended. If you experience unexplained skin lesions, particularly if you’ve been in areas where Alaskapox is known to occur, consult your doctor promptly!

Looking to the Future

Continued research is crucial to understand the virus’s biology, transmission dynamics, and potential for wider spreading of the disease, and developing diagnostic tools and potential treatments would be vital for effective management. Public health awareness campaigns educating individuals about Alaskapox and preventive measures should be enacted.

Summary

Like other diseases, scientists suspect that Alaskapox was acquired through animal contact; however, the virus appears rare. At least at this time, vigilance and ongoing research are crucial to ensure preparedness for future outcomes. If you have concerns, consult your healthcare provider or local public health department for accurate and up-to-date information.

While the virus remains a mystery, ongoing research will no doubt contribute to better preventative care and lead to a solution, such as a vaccine. We just have to wait and see!

 

What is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis Overview

Sarcoidosis is a rare disease that can affect multiple organs within the body. Characterized by the formation of small abnormal masses known as granulomas, which are part of the body’s immune system.  

Diagram of people with sarcodisis
Wikipedia CC

This condition can impact various organs, leading to a variety of symptoms. Although the precise cause of sarcoidosis remains elusive, researchers believe it involves an abnormal immune response, but that is not conclusive.

In one case, a 55-year-old man who has a strong immune system was diagnosed with the disease. An MRI found he has lymph nodes in his lungs causing him to run out of breath by just walking up a flight of stairs. Although this condition is not fatal, the question arises how a physically fit individual be infected with the disease? More studies are needed. 

Granulomas – The Explanation

As mentioned, one of the primary trademarks of sarcoidosis is the development of granulomas, which are a tight cluster of cells to fight off an infection or foreign substance, commonly known as inflammation.

The reason for granuloma development can be due to pathogens, damaged cells, and toxic compounds, among other conditions that infect the body.

This inflammation can form in organs such as the lungs, lymph nodes, skin, eyes, heart, liver, and nervous system. The distribution of granulomas throughout the body contributes to the variability in symptoms and clinical manifestations.

The Organs

Lungs

Illustration of the lungs
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

This organ is the most commonly affected with sarcoidosis disease and pulmonary symptoms are among the most prevalent. Individuals may experience persistent cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. In some cases, the ailment may advance to pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that results in the scarring of lung tissue, compromising respiratory functions.

Skin

Rashes and lesions are the common symptoms of this disease. The manifestations on the skin can vary in appearance and can come with painful red nodules. Lupus pernio is one of these manifestations that can cause potential disfigurement. It is not essentially painful but if other organs are affected, other symptoms could occur.

Heart and Nervous System

Diagram of the Human Heart

Cardiac sarcoidosis is a rare form of the disease but is concerning for individuals who have it as it can lead to cardiac complications. Studies have shown that cardiac sarcoidosis occurs in approximately 5-25% of people with sarcoidosis but is a bit harder to diagnose since the developing symptoms are common with other heart-related ailments; such as arrhythmia. 

Individuals who believe they may have this form of sarcoidosis should confer with their cardiologist regularly.

Treatments

Corticosteroids, which is the term used to group anti-inflammatory medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs used to reduce immune activity, and prednisone is one of the most popular meds prescribed in this group. 

For those with pulmonary (lung) sarcoidosis, a spray may be prescribed. 

Conclusion

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disorder that can occur in a variety of organs but is most commonly found in the lungs. The exact cause is unknown at this time, but it is believed by many medical researchers to involve an abnormal immune response. 

Other factors may be from inheritance and scientists are not ruling out environmental triggers as well, such as exposure to certain chemicals or infectious agents.

Research is ongoing to find the specific causes of this disease. Regular monitoring and medical follow-ups are crucial for individuals with this rare condition.

 

Understanding RSV: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Illustration of RSV virus
Photo: Free Image

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is an extremely common but contagious illness that infects the lungs and breathing passages and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis. It can spread through the air, contact with secretions (such as saliva, mucus, and tears), or contact with contaminated objects and surfaces. 

While many cases of RSV are mild and cause no more than a few days of coughing and a runny nose, some cases can be more severe and lead to serious complications, especially for children. It is important to understand the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of RSV to recognize the virus and get appropriate medical care.

How Serious is RSV?

Child with oxigen mask
A child with Respiratory Syncytial Virus with an inhaler. Children are most susceptible to RSV. Photo: iStock

If you are exposed to RSV as an adult, you might have a bout of coughing and a runny nose and feel like you have the flu.

Babies and young children could become ill to the point of hospitalization. 

RSV causes more deaths in children under one-year-old than any other type of infection.

Babies and young children are at risk for serious health problems and even death if they get infected. According to a recent study, one in every fifty children die from this disease in low-income and middle-income countries. At this age, the immune system is still developing, and babies are at greater risk for serious complications from the infection.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually appear about four to six days after acquiring the infection. If you are an adult you most likely will have just mild cold-like symptoms.

These symptoms may include:

      • A cough that may or may not produce sputum (phlegm) 
      • Runny nose 
      • Asthma or wheezing 
      • Shortness of breath 
      • Hard time sleeping
      • Fever 

Diagnosis

If you have these symptoms or others, your doctor will likely ask about your medical history, but he/she will be unlikely to order any tests because there is no specific diagnosis for RSV.  

To rule out other conditions and determine the best course of treatment, your physician may order tests such as a blood test, chest X-ray, or sputum (phlegm) cultures. These tests are usually done only if you have a child that is younger than two months old or if you have a complicated or severe case of RSV. 

Complications 

In severe cases, there may be a few complications that can occur. 

      • Breathing Problems – RSV can cause wheezing, a whistling sound in the lungs (stridor), rapid breathing, and slow or irregular heart rate. In severe cases of RSV, these breathing problems can require treatment in the hospital, including a breathing tube (intubation). 
      • Pneumonia – If you have significant difficulty breathing and have a high fever, you may have a bacterial infection in the lungs, which can develop as a complication of RSV. Bacterial pneumonia can be serious and needs to be treated with antibiotics. 
      • Swallowing Problems – Since the respiratory system and the digestive system are close together, RSV can also affect the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. If a baby or young child with RSV develops significant sputum in their throat, they may have trouble swallowing and aspiration (taking in) their saliva and mucus. Esophagitis can occur in both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding infants. If it is recognized early and treated, most cases resolve without complication.

Treatment of RSV

Doctor taking child's temperature
Bigstock

There is no specific treatment. Instead, doctors support and treat the symptoms as they arise. If you have severe or life-threatening issues, you may need to be hospitalized to get more focused care. 

For milder symptoms, take the following steps to support your body and allow the virus to pass without complications: – Rest and rest as needed. If you are not breastfeeding, it is best to rest for a few days.

If you are breastfeeding, you may still want to rest as needed. – Drink plenty of fluids. You can take in fluids by drinking water, juice, or sports drinks. You may also want to take in electrolytes through gels or packs. Avoid drinking carbonated beverages as these can lead to increased vomiting. – Take a pain reliever as needed for any coughing or pain. – Ask for help with childcare and housekeeping.

Prevention 

Man washing his hands with sanitizer
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

There is no way to prevent RSV completely. However, taking steps to prevent the transmission of the virus can help reduce the risk of getting infected. The list below has been stated previously in other articles on respiratory diseases, but it never hurts to reiterate!

      • Wash hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. 
      • Avoid touching your face and then touching your baby. This includes coughing and sneezing into your elbow, not your hands.
      • Avoid close contact with infants who have RSV.
      • Avoid crowds, especially if you are breastfeeding. 
      • Avoid places with poor air quality.

RSV in Infants and Young Children

For infants and young children, RSV can cause serious illness and even death. Babies under two months of age are at the highest risk for complications from RSV, including death.

The following signs may indicate that your child has RSV and should be checked by a doctor: 

      • Increased breathing rate or difficulty breathing 
      • Coughing that produces thick or colored sputum 
      • Poor feeding (e.g., appearing lethargic or sleepy, not feeding well, looking irritated or stressed when feeding)
      • Blue or purple coloring of hands and feet
      • Poor weight gain. If your child has any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away to discuss their illness and get medical advice 

When to Seek Medical Care 

If you have any symptoms of RSV, particularly if you are breastfeeding and have an infant, it is important to contact your doctor. If your child has severe symptoms, you should seek medical care. If your child is less than two months old and has any of the following symptoms, they should be seen by a doctor: – Breathing difficulty – High fever – Poor weight gain.

Outlook 

Most people with RSV recover without any complications. It is important to rest and drink plenty of fluids to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

In some cases, people with RSV can develop pneumonia. If someone develops pneumonia, they may need antibiotics. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, some people will need to be hospitalized and may need antibiotics to treat it. 

If your child has RSV, it is best to rest and take care of yourself as well. Taking good care of your health can help you take better care of your child.

If you were born between 1947 and 1957, you may have been exposed to a different type of RSV as a child. The infection was less common and often more severe, with a higher risk of complications and death. While you will have immunity to the type of RSV that is more common today, you may be at risk for a severe infection if exposed to the older type.

 

The Black Plague: Causes, Effects, and How It Changed History

Overview

Map of areas affected by the Black Death
Map of areas affected by the Black Death within the years 1346 – 1353. Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain

The Black Plague, also known as the Black Death and Bubonic plague was a pandemic that spread across Europe and other parts of the world during the mid-14th century. 

This pandemic is estimated to have killed between 75 – 200 million people worldwide, making it one of the deadliest diseases in human history. Today, we have many more tools to prevent and treat infectious diseases, such as vaccinations, antibiotics, and improved sanitation.

Causes of the Pandemic

Yersinia_pestis - the bacteria that caused the Black Plague
Yersinia pestis – the bacteria that caused the Black Plague. Photo: Wikipedia CDC Public Domain

One of the most common reasons why the Black Plague spread so quickly was due to how society was structured at the time.

Large populations were congregating in unsanitized urban areas and subsequently, this provided a greater opportunity for the disease to be transmitted. How people lived and interacted with each other was also an important factor.

Additionally, poor hygiene and lack of food created an environment in which this illness could easily spread. Things like trade routes and the general migration of people also served as key factors in the transmission of the plague.

Origins of the Black Plague

illustration of the The Great Plague of London in 1665. The last major outbreak of the bubonic plague in England.
illustration of The Great Plague of London in 1665. The last major outbreak of the bubonic plague was in England.

The plague started in Asia and then quickly spread to Europe via the Silk Road trading route. From there, the disease moved westward, reaching the British Isles in 1348.

It had already spread significantly by the time it was recorded in Western Europe. This is attributed to the large number of rats on ships and in the ports where trade routes were located. Once in Europe, the disease quickly spread throughout the continent.

The culprit was flea bites and as such, it was able to quickly propagate across populations that were near  one another.

Symptoms

Because the pandemic was caused by bacteria and not by viruses, it presents distinct symptoms. Early signs of infection include headaches and fevers. The bacteria that caused the plague would then travel to the lymph nodes, causing them to swell and become inflamed.

Once they became inflamed, the bacteria would travel to the blood vessels and create more pustules and buboes (inflammation of the lymph nodes); hence the term Bubonic plague. These would appear as black spots or swellings on the skin.

The bacteria would then travel to the lungs, where it would cause pneumonia and other respiratory symptoms. The buboes would then become large and inflamed, becoming the hallmark of the plague and the most recognizable symptoms.

Treatment

Doctor with standard nose-case that is filled with herbal material to keep off the plague
Doctor with standard beak nose-case. Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain

Because no one was aware of what caused this contagion at the time, there was no effective treatment for the disease. The most common way to treat it was through the use of bloodletting.

Bloodletting was a common medical practice at the time that involved the removal of blood from the body. Other methods of treatment included hygiene, isolation, and the burning of clothes.

During this time, many doctors would don black overcoats and beak mask that was filled with substances like lavender, which they believed would keep the plague at a distance.

Social and Economic Effects

The disease had a significant social and economic impact on the world. It caused widespread death and stopped the growth of major cities and towns. This had a significant impact on the social structure of the world at the time.

Cities and towns were forced to close and remain closed. This had an impact on the social aspect of lifestyles during this period. The lack of trade was also a significant factor and trade routes that connected China and Europe were significantly impacted. This had an effect on the economy of the time and how goods were transported and traded.

Long-Term Impact

This bacterial disease led to the creation of quarantine protocols and the early development of modern medicine. It also led to the development of new social and economic systems. There was an increased emphasis on sanitation, hygiene, and the need for better ways of treating patients with infectious diseases.

A new social structure was eventually created. There was a rise in religious groups and new forms of governance. The world was forced to grow in new and different ways.

The End of the Black Plague

It is believed to have ended in Europe around the early 1700s. The exact cause of the end of this pandemic is uncertain, but it is widely believed that there have been multiple factors that contributed to its end.

For example, improved hygiene and sanitation would have reduced the spread. The geographic location and climate of Europe would also have played a role in limiting its spread.

Additionally, developments in modern medicine can’t be ruled out and increased research and development of antibiotics would likely have helped to stop the plague from spreading.

How the Plague Changed History

Trade between major cities was stopped. There was also a significant increase in religious piety and the creation of new religious orders. This led to an increased focus on the afterlife and the creation of new art forms. There was also an increase in the focus on moralistic literature. The Plague also resulted in introduction new methods of modern medical practices. As the pandemic ended, the medical community was able to learn more about the disease and develop new ways of treating it.

Summary

The Black Plague was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. It caused widespread death and suffering across Europe and beyond, and its effects can still be seen in society today.

The pandemic was caused by a bacterial infection that led to the formation of buboes and pustules on the skin. There was no effective treatment for the disease. It was transmitted via the fleas and body lice of rats.

This contagion quickly spread to major cities and towns and as it prorogated throughout the continents, it caused significant death rates, resulting in a significant social, economic, and long-term impact.

Ironically, the plague changed the course of history by introducing new methods of modern medical practices and advancements in medical science.

What is the Flu? Understanding and Preventing the Influenza Virus

Woman with baby with the flu
Photo: iStock 121522

Overview

The flu is similar to the common cold but has more severe symptoms. Its similarities also match that of Covid. Sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart since the symptoms of these illnesses affect the nose, throat, and lungs. 

Doctors can diagnose if you have the flu and not Covid. The process is similar to a Covid test where they would swab your nose with a cotton wad. Many medical facilities will be able to get the result within 15 minutes.

The flu, AKA influenza virus, is a serious infectious disease that affects thousands of people worldwide each year. While the symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe, it can be potentially life-threatening for some, especially those who are immune compromised.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and treat the virus, and understanding what this disease is, how it spreads, and which symptoms to look out for can help protect you, so let’s delve into what exactly the flu is and what we can do to prevent getting it. This applies to Covid as well. 

What is the Flu?

Influenza is a viral infection that causes inflammation in the respiratory system. It can infect people of all ages but is most likely to cause illness among people ages 2 to 49. Its symptoms are similar to Covid and the main difference is that the flu is part of the influencer virus and Covid originates from the SARS-CoV-2 family whose genetic coding differentiates itself from the flu virus.

In most people, the flu leads to symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose, cough, fever, headaches, muscle aches, and extreme tiredness. It can last for several days and most people will fully recover without treatment.

As with Covid and other illnesses, those who are at high risk include children under two years old, pregnant women, people over the age of fifty, people with certain chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, and people who are immunosuppressed.

How is the Flu Spread?

As with Covid, any contact with droplets in the air (also known as “airborne transmission”) from someone who has the virus can easily catch the flu. This is the most common way that people can get infected. 

If a person is coughing or sneezing into his/her hands and touches door handles, computer keyboards, phones, or other common surfaces and then you touch these objects, your hands would most likely be infected, and if you touch your mouth or nose without washing your hands first, you most likely will contact the disease. 

With that said, scientists are not sure how long the virus lasts on surface areas, but studies have shown they can remain infected for 24 – 48 hours, so it is always a good idea to periodically disinfect common items that are touched in the house and to disinfect your hands after touching common items outside.

What are the Symptoms?

Woman sneezing
Image by Mojca-Peter from Pixabay

It can begin with a feeling of being under the weather that lasts one to two days. They can be mild to severe, depending on the person. Children can also have diarrhea and vomiting with flu symptoms. Additionally, you may have a high fever, headaches, muscle aches, and experience fatigue.

People with the flu can transmit the virus to others from one day before symptoms begin until at least three days after symptoms begin. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor because of the uptick of viral and bacterial respiratory infections that are occurring these days, especially among children

How can the Flu be Prevented?

Man washing his hands with sanitizer
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Getting a vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. Antibodies won’t do it because it is a virus. The best time to get vaccinated is in the fall before flu season sets in. You should get a flu shot every year, even if you don’t think you’ve been exposed.

Vaccination not only prevents the flu, but it also reduces the risk of passing it to others. This is especially important during flu season when you’re more likely to come into contact with someone who has it.

You should also take other steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu, including (and this applies overall for general health and safety):

      • Wash your hands frequently. This is one of the best ways to prevent its spread. 
      • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. 
      • Drink lots of fluids. 100% fruit and vegetable juice are great immune boosters.
      • Stay home when you are sick. The flu is highly contagious and can easily be spread to others.
      • Keep your hands away from your face. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
      • Avoid touching common surfaces when possible. This will help reduce the risk of spreading germs and bacteria.
      • Get plenty of rest. Resting when you are sick will help your body fight the infection faster.
Glass of orange juice with oranges and pills
Juice loaded with vitamin C is a great source for keeping your immune system healthy

What Treatments are Available?

The flu usually goes away by itself. Your physician will prescribe rest and over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to reduce your fever and ease your discomfort.

Are There Complications of the Flu?

Serious complications are rare but include bacterial infections, bronchitis, or pneumonia. You should speak with your doctor if you notice worsening symptoms, additional symptoms, or if your symptoms have not improved after a few days.

Depending on the severity of your infection and your risk of complications, you may be prescribed antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection. If you have an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, you may be at higher risk of complications.

How Long Does the Flu Last?

This depends on the person. The average time you will be ill is one to two weeks. However, you should continue to practice good hygiene and hand-washing habits even after you’ve recovered.

Are There Long-Term Effects?

Influenza can sometimes lead to more serious complications, including pneumonia or bronchitis. In rare cases, it could lead to death, but most of the time in these cases, the patient is usually not well to begin with, so if you have an underlying medical condition, the flu can increase your risk of long-term effects.

If you get infected, you’re likely to be out of commission for a few days. Getting yourself back to health as soon as possible is the best way to avoid the longer-term effects of the flu. If you get the flu shot and still get sick, you may have been exposed to another type of flu virus.

 

What is Pneumonia

Pneumonia in the human body illustration
Bacterial pneumonia, 3D illustration showing rod-shaped bacteria inside alveoli of the lung. Photo: iStock

Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs that leads to the production of pus. The infection causes the delicate lung tissue to become inflamed, and filled with fluid and creates a hospitable environment for bacteria.

Acquiring bacteria and viruses in the air we breathe is the most common cause of pneumonia. Your body will typically defend your lungs against these germs but sometimes, even if you are in good health, your immune system might not be able to fully neutralize the infection. With that said, under normal conditions and if you are in good health, you should fully recover within a week or two.

But, pneumonia can also be a life-threatening condition that requires treatment in a hospital, especially for the elderly and/or immune-deficient individuals. These more serious cases are known as severe and can lead to long-term consequences such as chronic lung disease or even death.

Different types of pneumonia can be broadly categorized as community-acquired or hospital-acquired pneumonia. Learn more about this condition in this article.

What is the Difference Between Community-Acquired Pneumonia (CAP) and Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia?

Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is caused by bacteria present in the environment outside of a hospital. CAP occurs when bacteria enter the lungs through the airway and multiply there. This can happen when you have a cold, or another virus.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) is a type of pneumonia that develops in a patient who has been admitted to the hospital, usually due to an infection that the patient already has, such as a urinary tract infection, blood infection, or lung infection.

It is a type of healthcare-associated infection (HAI). This means the person contracted it while being treated for another condition in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital.

It is important to note that not all pneumonia acquired in a hospital setting is also healthcare-associated pneumonia. HAP can be life-threatening for patients and can occur after surgery, as a complication of other infections, or as the result of the use of breathing machines. It is therefore important for healthcare providers to follow infection prevention and control practices to reduce the risk of contracting HAP and spreading it to other patients.

Pathophysiology of Pneumonia

Lungs lllustration
Lung illustration with red vessels and healthy bronchial vesicles. If pneumonia, fluid would build up on the air sacs AKA Alveoli. Photo: iStock

An infection in the lungs can cause inflammation and fluid buildup in the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs.

The infection can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or other microorganisms.  It can also be caused by inhaling irritants such as dust or fumes.

Bacterial pneumonia is when bacteria infect the lungs and cause an infection. Viral pneumonia is when a virus infects the lungs and causes an infection.

Diagnosis of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can be diagnosed based on symptoms, physical exams, and lab tests. Healthcare providers may order a chest X-ray to confirm if there is an infection in the lungs and if there is pneumonia. Blood tests can also be done to check for bacteria and other microorganisms. Additionally, a cat scan may be used to further determine the infection and possibly the cause.

Severity of Pneumonia

The severity is determined by how quickly the condition progresses. The two main factors that determine how quickly a patient might progress with pneumonia are the person’s overall health before getting the infection and if there are any other health conditions present.

People who are generally in good health have a lower chance of progressing to a severe level compared to people who have preexisting medical conditions. Patients with mild pneumonia may not have any symptoms other than a cough that may be so mild that it can be mistaken for a chronic cough.

Mild

Pneumonia is considered mild when patients have a mild cough (that can be mistaken for a chronic cough), an unexplained fever, and/or shortness of breath, as well as other cold-like symptoms.

Its technical name is atypical pneumonia, but it is more commonly known as walking pneumonia since seeking a medical professional is not required, but recommended and the patient can go on with his/her daily routine although feeling like he/she has a bad cold.

Walking pneumonia is most commonly caused by a bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is typically found in the upper respiratory tract. Approximately 900,000 Americans are found to be infected with this bacteria each year.

Severe

Pneumonia is considered severe when the patient’s symptoms are exactly that – severe, meaning that your cough, fever, headaches, shortness of breath, etc. are enough to make you feel so uncomfortable that you want to seek medical attention. (This is not to say that you shouldn’t seek medical attention or advice if you have a mild case). Hospitalization is required for the treatment of severe pneumonia because symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, and fatigue become more severe.

Treatment for Pneumonia

Pneumonia is treated in several ways, depending on the patient’s overall health and the severity of the infection. Treatment for mild bacterial pneumonia is usually limited to antibiotics and plenty of rest.

For severe cases, patients are placed on mechanical ventilation if their breathing is too shallow or fast or their oxygen level is too low. If the patient is not on a ventilator, they may receive antibiotics intravenously to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Patients who are on mechanical ventilation are given antibiotics through a port placed in their veins as well as supplemental oxygen.

Prevention of Pneumonia

Vaccination is recommended for those who are at a high risk of getting the disease, such as people over 65. Other groups that can benefit from vaccinations include healthcare workers, people traveling to countries where pneumonia is common (such as developing nations), and people who have a weakened immune system.

Smoking tobacco is the leading risk factor for pneumonia as it damages the lungs, compromising their immune function and ability to fight infections.

Stress, particularly chronic stress, can also weaken the immune system and increase susceptibility to pneumonia.

There are also steps you can take to reduce the risk of pneumonia, including getting plenty of sleep and avoiding large crowds during flu season.

Conclusion

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes inflammation and fluid buildup in the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, including viruses and bacteria.

Symptoms of pneumonia include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing, but it can be treated with antibiotics, rest, and fluids.

It is important to see a doctor if you think you may have pneumonia, as it can be fatal if left untreated for some people.

There are two types of pneumonia: community-acquired pneumonia and hospital-acquired pneumonia. Community-acquired pneumonia occurs when bacteria enter the lungs through the airway, either as a result of a viral infection or from exposure to irritants in the air.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is an infection that results from an infection that the patient already has, such as a urinary tract infection, blood infection, or lung infection. It is important to note that not all pneumonia acquired in a hospital setting is also healthcare-associated.

If you do come down with any of these symptoms mentioned and these symptoms are precise beyond the normal course of time where they should have subsided, or if you are immune deficient, elderly, or have other high-risk issues, you should seek a medical professional ASAP!

World Pneumonia Day

Infographic on how to keep your lungs healthy
Image Source: FreeImages‍

World Pneumonia Day

November 12 is around the corner and that is World Pneumonia Day. It reminds us to come together to demand action against this deadly disease, as it is the world’s leading cause of death among children.

What is Pneumonia?

Simply put, pneumonia is fluid in your lungs. According to the World Health Organization, it’s also the leading cause of hospital-acquired infections in developed countries and accounts for 14% of deaths of children under the age of five.

Pneumonia can be viral or bacterial. If bacterial, antibiotics would be the prominent medication that’s used, and in virtually all cases, the patient will recover 100%. If viral, antibiotics will be of no use and other means of treatment would be necessary.

If you’re over 65, have a chronic illness like diabetes, are a smoker, or have other ‘at risk’ habits, your odds of contracting pneumonia are even higher.

Let’s learn about how our lungs work.

The Respiratory System

Illustration of the lungs
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

In general, as with all parts of the body, some mechanisms are at work to keep you healthy. Sometimes they move into overdrive if something goes wrong, such as if the body gets invaded by pathogenic agents (AKA, an infection), which may be bacteria, protozoans, or viruses.

Let’s see what overdrive protection the body uses when the lungs become infected with one of these pathogens.

The Carbon Dioxide Factor

The main function of the lungs is to convert the oxygen we breathe into carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is essential to keep your blood in a healthy state.

If an inefficient amount of carbon dioxide is produced, then we are not breathing enough, and our blood can be negatively affected; consequently, we will breathe heavier to compensate for more carbon dioxide production.

The PH Indicator

PH is a blood indicator. The normal level of pH in the blood for a healthy person can range from 7.35 to 7.45. Any changes in your pH level, meaning changes in your blood; such as low carbon dioxide production, can indicate a health condition, such as heart, kidney, or lung disease, as well as possible numerous other illnesses.

The heaver breathing mentioned above is because the parts of the brain that control the breathing were signaled that there is not enough carbon dioxide available in the lungs, and it activates the body to tell it to produce deeper breaths, known as respiratory compensation, to bring up the PH blood level.

The Oxygen Factor

If you’re not breathing in enough oxygen or something internal is causing you to not acquire enough oxygen, or something is failing to help your body produce the required amount of carbon dioxide, your immune system will get compromised. When this happens, your body is less able to fight off the bacteria and/or viruses that can lead to illnesses such as pneumonia.

What Can We Do to Help Maintain Proper Carbon Dioxide and PH Blood Levels?

Of course, there is no 100% absolute protection against pneumonia, but we can do certain things to help keep it at bay.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Sandwich with measuring tape around it
Losing weight with the Paleo diet

Needless to say, being overweight can be the catalyst for a range of health issues, and contracting pneumonia is no exception. There was a study conducted that determined that obesity can play a role in a person developing pneumonia; so as we have been saying in numerous articles, work to keep your weight down!

Eat Healthy and Exercise!

Fit Brunette Woman Running on Treadmill with Music
Photo: Graphicstock

This is a no-brainer, but if you’re already at a healthy weight but have been gaining weight over time, make diet and exercise changes before it’s too late.

And above all, talk to your physician or medical professional about what your best plan would be to work that weight off.

Stay Covered When You’re Out in the Cold

Another no-brainer, but if you spend a lot of time outdoors in cold weather, dress appropriately.  One exception might be if you are a member of the Polar Bear Club but we won’t touch on this one.

Get Your Flu Shot Every Year

The flu virus is responsible for millions of infections every year, including many cases of pneumonia. Get your flu shot to minimize your risk of contracting lung diseases. And don’t forget about pneumococcal pneumonia shot too, and this goes double for seniors!

It must be stated that even if you get these shots, that doesn’t mean that you will not acquire the flu or pneumonia. There was one recent case in Long Island New York where a healthy senior who got all his vaccines, including Covid, still got infected with pneumonia. He fully recovered with antibiotics but remained in the hospital until all the fluid in his lungs had been gone.

It is just so much you can do, but doing that so much would be highly recommended.

Conclusion

Pneumonia is a serious infection that can lead to death but can also be cured. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help prevent acquiring it. . Therefore, it is important to stay on top of your respiratory care, maintain a healthy weight, stay covered when you’re out in the cold, get your required vaccines every year, and make sure your home is well ventilated.

For a more detailed explanation of pneumonia, check out our article What is Pneumonia?

As with all diseases, prevention is key!

What is Monkey Pox? Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Monkey Pox Illustration
iStock

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, it comes from monkeys. That was your question, right? Now let’s get to what it is exactly!

Monkeypox is a very rare virus that can be passed from monkeys and other animals to humans. It’s also known as pox or smallpox. Most people who get monkeypox don’t have any symptoms, but when they do appear they are usually mild.

If you catch it early enough, you can treat it at home; however, if it gets out of control, it could lead to potentially serious complications. Luckily there are ways to prevent contracting the disease. Keep reading for more information about how to avoid getting infected with Monkey Pox and its treatment.

Monkey Pox: Details

The virus has never been reported in humans in the US, but it can pop up in places where people are in contact with infected animals, like African countries and tropical areas in South America. Monkeypox gets its name from the fact that it was first discovered in monkeys.

People get infected with the virus when they’re in contact with a monkey or other animals like rodents that carry the infection, according to the CDC. Humans can also get infected from breathing in the droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneezing.

How Do You Get the Monkey Pox Virus?

The disease that’s only found in certain areas of the world, like Africa and tropical areas of South America. You can get it from coming into direct contact with infected animals, like monkeys or rodents, or through the air when someone coughs or sneezes.

While it’s extremely rare to find monkeypox in the U.S., it can happen when people travel to areas where the virus is present and bring it back home with them. If you’re in a situation where you or others may come into contact with infected animals, you should take extra precautions. Wear gloves when handling them, and try to avoid being bitten or scratched. Cover all cuts, scratches, and open wounds with bandages, and make sure to keep them dry. Be sure to frequently wash your hands and thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces that may have come into contact with the virus as well. Are sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Symptoms 

Most people who get monkeypox don’t have any symptoms, but when they do appear they are usually mild. The average incubation period is 12-14 days. You can get a rash – bumps on your skin that form a red or blue spot – swollen lymph nodes (small glands in your body that fight infection) – pain and/or itching at the site of the rash. Other symptoms include fever headaches, nausea, muscle aches, diarrhea, and bleeding inside the stomach or intestines.

Treatment 

If you think you’ve been infected with his virus, you should contact your doctor immediately. They can test your blood to see if it has been infected and you should stay away from others while you’re being tested.

Monkeypox can be treated. If you’re diagnosed with the infection, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. You might also be given antiviral drugs to slow the progression of the infection.

Prevention 

If you travel to areas that have a high risk of the virus, make sure you follow the recommendations mentioned above. Because it’s a rare infection, health officials don’t recommend vaccines, and they’re only available in certain countries.

Conclusion

Monkeypox is a very rare virus that can be passed from monkeys and other animals to humans.  Most people who get monkeypox don’t have any symptoms, but when they do appear they are usually mild. Luckily there are ways to prevent contracting the disease. Some precautions are to wear gloves when handling animals and try to avoid being bitten or scratched by them and follow the cleaning recommendations mentioned in this article, but if you are afraid of catching the disease, the best suggestion is to not go to the high-risk areas.