David Gibson: 7 Most Common Infectious Diseases

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Eschmann’s David Gibson asks: Is your practice prepared to fight off the 7 most common infectious diseases?

In the UK, there are still a number of infectious diseases that dental professionals need to be aware of. Although we have made leaps and bounds in the last few decades in regards to understanding and protecting against illnesses, there are still some diseases which are commonplace.

The following seven illnesses account for over half of GP consultations for children, and a third for adults [1]. Therefore, defending against them is vital in order to ensure your practice remains a safe space for patients and staff alike.

Food Poisoning

Although the primary way to contract food poisoning is by eating bad food, the bacteria or viruses responsible can easily be spread from person to person. The most common culprits behind food poisoning are salmonella and E.coli bacteria, and norovirus [2]. All three of these pathogens can affect our bodies in similar ways, resulting in nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and other unpleasant symptoms.

While food poisoning is unlikely to be life threatening in the majority of cases, sometimes symptoms can be severe and people can require hospitalisation due to dehydration. The bacteria and viruses responsible for food poisoning are easily spread, and can transfer to surfaces if sufferers do not have good hand hygiene [3].

Infectious bloody diarrhoea

Although similar to food poisoning in that this condition is usually caused by salmonella bacteria, the difference is that those who experience acute infectious bloody diarrhoea won’t suffer from vomiting or nausea [4]. This condition is very rarely serious, but may lead to dehydration.

Again, the bacteria responsible for this condition can be spread with ease, especially after individuals have had an onset of diarrhoea and don’t wash their hands properly.

Measles

Measles is on the rise. According to the World Health Organization, cases of the disease have tripled in the last year, and this is probably due to people refusing to vaccinate their children. This is worrying as measles can be fatal, and mortalities due to the disease are rising at a significant pace [5].

Measles is highly contagious and can spread through mucus expelled by coughing or sneezing. The virus is very resilient and can live in airspaces where an infected person has coughed or sneezed for up to two hours [6].

Meningococcal septicaemia

This deadly condition is particularly threatening to health as it can often appear to only be flu before developing into a life-threatening illness. It develops due to bacteria entering the bloodstream and multiplying, eventually leading to more noticeable symptoms such as a purple rash and severe aches in the joints.

This is caused by bacteria damaging the blood cells, leading to internal bleeding. Luckily these germs are nowhere near as contagious as common cold or flu germs, however, they are still spread through saliva, meaning that coughing and sneezing can transmit them [7].

Mumps

Much like measles, cases of mumps are on the rise in the UK. Mumps is caused by a virus which results in the painful swelling of the parotid glands under the ears. In some cases, this disease is very severe, and can lead to the onset of viral meningitis which can be life threatening.

In the first three months of 2019 alone there were 795 cases of mumps reported in the UK, compared to the 1,031 cases reported throughout the whole of 2018 [8]. This shows that the disease is fast becoming more prominent, and as the condition is once again spread through saliva, it can easily transmit from person to person.

Scarlet Fever

Another illness that masquerades as flu for the first few weeks, scarlet fever is only really recognisable once the signature red rash starts to appear on the body. The biggest concern of scarlet fever is that it may lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis or rheumatic fever, which can have considerable impact on quality of life and/or be fatal [9].

Scarlet fever can be spread by inhaling saliva droplets expelled during sneezing or coughing, as well as skin to skin contact.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Alongside measles and mumps, tuberculosis too is making a comeback in the UK. Although the vaccine significantly cut down the number of cases when it was introduced, rates of TB have been steadily climbing for the last 20 years. This is also likely due to the anti-vaxx movement [10].

TB usually affects the lungs, but it can manifest in other parts of the body. Any fluids expelled during coughing or sneezing tend to be the main carrier of the disease.

Protect your practice

Every waiting room is going to be full of people who can spread disease. Just one infected individual coughing or sneezing is enough to spread an infection to anyone else who inhales these mucus droplets, or who touches contaminated surfaces. Therefore, it is vital to use cleaning products that can eliminate a high percentage of the germs present.

Author:

David is the marketing Manager with Eschmann and a regular contributor to Dental Review. He says: “It’s also an excellent idea to ensure your instruments that will come into contact with the saliva of infected individuals are properly decontaminated. The Little Sister SES 2020N autoclave from Eschmann is a perfect choice, as not only does it ensure fast and reliable decontamination cycles, but it has also been built to streamline the whole process.”

References

1] JSNA Blackpool. Infectious and Communicable Diseases. Link click HERE [Last accessed August 19].

2] NHS inform. Food Poisoning. Link: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/food-poisoning [Last accessed August 19].

3] Healthline. Is Food Poisoning Contagious? Link: https://www.healthline.com/health/is-food-poisoning-contagious [Last accessed August 19].

4] AAP News & Journals. Acute Infectious Bloody Diarrhoea. Link click HERE [Last accessed August 19].

5] BBC News. Measles Cases Tripled in Europe Last Year, WHO says. Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47157020 [Last accessed August 19].

6] CDC. Transmission of Measles. Link click HERE [Last accessed August 19].

7] CDC. Meningococcal Disease. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/causes-transmission.html [Last accessed August 19].

8] BBC news. Mumps and Measles Cases In England Prompt Vaccine Call. Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-48386990 [Last accessed August 19].

9] NHS. Scarlet Fever. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatic-fever/ [Last accessed August 19].

10] NHS Inform. Tuberculosis. Link: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/tuberculosis-tb [Last accessed August 19].