Infections – a healthy dose of soma

Our office has been receiving frequent calls about women who are concerned about the Zika virus.

The current recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) are for women to wait at least 8 weeks to try conceiving if they have symptoms of Zika. It is recommended for men to wait at least 6 months if they have symptoms of Zika.

If a pregnant woman or man has traveled to an area with Zika but has not had any symptoms, it is recommended to wait at least 8 weeks after exposure.

Most people who are infected with Zika will not even know they have had it. The most common symptoms are fever, joint pains, rash, or conjunctivitis (inflamed, red eyes). Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache.

I had an interesting question recently in the office. “What is the difference between bacteria and viruses?”, a patient asked. I spent 5 years buried in a laboratory studying Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium. But when I was asked this question, I had to think hard.

Bacteria are single celled organisms which are are found inside and outside our body (except in our blood and spinal fluid). There are beneficial bacteria and there are bacteria that cause illnesses. Viruses are smaller than bacteria. Viruses cannot survive outside the body’s cells. They cause illnesses by invading healthy cells and multiplying.

It’s that time of the season again when we start seeing colds and sinus infections and…the flu. Some patients want a quick fix when they start getting symptoms of the common cold. I often get asked to “nip it in the bud”. The common cold, influenza, most coughs, sinus infections and some ear infections are caused by viruses and should not be treated with antibiotics.

Antibiotics are medications that either kill or inhibit bacteria. They are used to treated bacterial infections. Penicillins, cephalosporins, fluroquinolones, and tetracyclines are some classes of antibiotics. Unfortunately, the inappropriate and widespread use of antibiotics has now selected for antibacterial resistance in bacteria. This resistance occurs when bacteria modify themselves in such a way that reduces or eliminates the efficacy of the antibiotic. These bacteria are very difficult to treat.

Sometimes it is difficult for a patient to determine if they have a bacterial or viral illness. Although it is understandable that you might want to feel better as soon as possible, it is also important for your health not to take antibiotics unnecessarily. If your doctor thinks your infection with a viral infection, it is better not to demand antibiotics when they are not needed. IF your doctor does prescribe an antibiotic, take it exactly as directed. Do not skip doses or stop treatment early. This may select for bacterial resistance and cause a re-infection. Don’t save the antibiotics for another time when you may get ill, or take antibiotics that are prescribed for someone else.

And remember, prevention is key. Wash your hands and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Use a anti-microbial sanitizer if soap and water isn’t readily available. AND…get your seasonal flu vaccine.

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