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Worried About Ebola? You’re More Likely to Get These 10 Serious Infections

Medically reviewed on Oct 19, 2014 by L. Anderson, PharmD

Influenza is a killer disease - literally

Every year, hundreds die from this preventable disease. In fact, in the 2013-2014 flu season, more than 105 flu-related deaths in children were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Deaths due to influenza are often due to complications like pneumonia, especially in the elderly. If someone in your family has the flu, you have a 25 percent chance of getting it, too. Think about it - if a vaccine were available for Ebola right now, many would get it, but unfortunately it’s not yet available. Well, the flu vaccine is available right now. Unfortunately many people skip it each year, even though many more currently die from the flu than Ebola.

Gonorrhea: the year-round affliction

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) do not have a season - they are prevalent year-round and worldwide. Gonorrhea from Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a common STD, with more than 800,000 new U.S. infections occurring each year. Adults are treated with antibiotics, but drug-resistant bacteria have become a concern. The CDC lists the current first-line gonorrhea treatment as injectable ceftriaxone, in combination with either oral azithromycin or doxycycline. This therapy is highly effective in treating gonorrhea with limited side effects. Two new antibiotic regimens use existing drugs in combo - injectable gentamicin with azithromycin, or oral gemifloxacin with azithromycin. Both regimens are close to 100% effective.

Salmonella accounts for 19,000 hospitalizations per year

What do chia powder, eggs, and peanut butter all have in common? Salmonella. Every year one million U.S. cases of salmonellosis, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths occur. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces, but thorough cooking will kill Salmonella. Symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps occur 12-72 hours after infection. The infection typically lasts 4-7 days and can clear without meds, but those with severe infections may need hospitalization, fluids, and antibiotic treatment with fluoroquinolones or 3rd generation cephalosporins.

Bacterial Meningitis - never far from the headlines

You’ve probably heard the concerning news reports recently about meningitis infections occurring on large college campuses. Meningitis infection may produce symptoms like a sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing or a rash. There are several types of germs that can lead to bacterial meningitis, and your age group will determine which you are most likely to acquire. For example, college students are more likely to get Neisseria meningitidis or Streptococcus pneumoniae, while newborns are more likely to get Group B Streptococcus. Bacterial meningitis needs to be quickly treated with antibiotics, and vaccines are available for prevention; see your doctor.

Enterovirus D68 - a good reason why washing your hands is so important

Here’s another good reason to wash your hands - enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is from a family of viruses that includes the common cold. Most people with enteroviruses have mild cold symptoms - fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, muscle aches and wheezing - and recover easily. In fall 2014, CDC had confirmed a total of 796 people with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. Children with asthma may be at highest risk. Several deaths have occurred, but may not be specifically due to EV-D68; concerns with associated paralysis are being investigated by health officials. The CDC expects the virus to decline by late fall, as with other enteroviruses. No EV-D68 vaccine or treatment is approved.

Chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) - one of America's most common infections

If you’re a baby-boomer in the U.S. - that is, born from 1946 to 1964 - you’ve heard about hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing. As a chronic, blood-borne disease often acquired through shared needles, HCV slowly damages the liver leading to cirrhosis, liver cancer or transplant, and death. To complicate matters, symptoms of HCV may not appear for up to 30 years. Roughly 3.2 million in the U.S. are infected with HCV, but many remain undiagnosed. Add to that, 15,000 people die from HCV every year. New oral treatment regimens, such as Sovaldi, Olysio, and Harvoni are expected to cure HCV in most patients, but not without a cost of upwards of $80,000 to $90,000 per treatment regimen.

HIV and AIDS - not to be underestimated

The HIV/AIDS virus has been around since 1981, and it’s gravity may be forgotten or simply ignored. But the fact is that AIDS is still a global epidemic. In 2012, more than one million people in the U.S. were living with HIV, but 20 percent were unaware of their status. Roughly 56,000 new cases of HIV infection are diagnosed each year in the U.S. The good news - after 30 years of dedicated research we have results, and there are now multiple drugs available to treat and prevent HIV. Early diagnosis and HIV therapy can dramatically reduce the risk of HIV advancing to AIDS and lengthen lives; however, early diagnosis is key, so if you are not sure of your status, get tested.

MERS-CoV: more cases are inevitable

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and remains largely confined to the Middle East. MERS most likely started from an animal source, possibly camels. The cases seen in the U.S. occurred in healthcare providers who worked in the Middle East. MERS can start with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is a common complication, and patients may go into respiratory failure or septic shock. The two cases seen in the U.S. recovered and none of their immediate contacts developed MERS. In the U.S., MERS represents a very low risk to the general public.

MRSA - an antibiotic resistant superbug

In September 2014, President Obama called for a national plan to fight antibiotic resistance. MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, one type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the community, MRSA can cause skin and other infections, and can be quite dangerous because it is resistant to many antibiotics. MRSA infections usually appear as a red, swollen, skin or soft tissue infection with pus and accompanied by a fever. The infection can enter the bloodstream, too. MRSA is contagious if personal items, such as towels or razors that have touched the infected skin, are shared. College athletes may be at risk, and MRSA also can also move quickly through a hospital setting.

Chikungunya - turning dream holidays into nightmares

Traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands is a dream trip for many, but some vacationers have come home with a painful mosquito-transmitted viral disease known as Chikungunya. In July 2014, the first U.S.-developed case of Chikungunya was reported in Florida. Chikungunya provokes a painful but seldom fatal illness and is common in Africa, Asia and has recently spread to 17 countries in the Caribbean. Chikungunya virus causes high fevers, painful joint swelling, headaches and rash. For some, the pain can last even after other symptoms disappear, but it tends to clear up after a week. No treatment exists, but a vaccine is under development. DEET-based insect repellents worn during the day can help repel mosquitos.

Finished: Worried About Ebola? You’re More Likely to Get These 10 Serious Infections

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