Disease-Scares Getting You Down? 4 action-based tips you can do other than just worry.

Disease scares getting you down? 4 action-based tips you can take other than just worry.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Scares … can be quite scary. And the scarier the news, the more it sells. So headlines emphasize the worst scenario.

A few years back, a producer of a popular television program told me their crew called this phenomenon of headlining the latest bad health news their “scare of the week.”

Well, OK, they’ve scared us. Now what do we do?

Just in the last few weeks I’ve read of MERS, multidrug resistant TB; listeria; plague; and the flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, found in warm seawater. Let’s see. Oh yeah, and Ebola. And there will, no doubt, be multiple scares to come.

I worry about what might be called “disease-scare burnout,” especially if you read only the headlines or start worrying about the what-ifs too much. And all of these diseases have those rabbit-hole what-ifs. What if they become even more contagious and start spreading like wildfire? What if terrorists alter one into a bioweapon? What if I become exposed and don’t even know it? I mean, the possibilities are limited only by your, or a blogger’s or reporter’s, imagination.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Every one of these diseases has potential to become a widespread problem for all of us. And certainly people directly affected find them no joke. I definitely think everyone should be informed and prepared. That’s what TheSurvivalDoctor.com is all about. But I tend to be an action person. When I read about a problem, I ask myself, “OK, given this information, is there anything I should be doing?”

I mean how many what-ifs can you prepare for? Especially since 99 percent of the what-ifs don’t play out. So you just say, forget it. And then that one scare—maybe it comes out of nowhere—becomes the big one. And you’re not prepared at all.

But here’s the secret those scare-of-the-week headlines don’t tell you: You could be prepped for that big one by taking a few steps that basically prevent almost all infections no matter the cause. And it’s so much easier to do that than worry over all the what-ifs.

To start, learn what almost infections have in common and how they infect you. Then, learn simple ways to thwart them—all at once.

3 Things Most Infections Have in Common

To get any of the infectious diseases, you have to come in contact with the virus or bacteria causing it. And then that germ has to enter your body and multiply.

1. To be infected, you have to have a source.

Depending on the germ, the source may be:

  • Bodily fluids directly from an infected person or animal—such as blood, saliva, semen, vomiting, or diarrhea. (Sweat is possibility, but it would be really rare to get it that way.
  • Air droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough. The germs float in the droplets or land on a surface. They seldom live more than a few hours. Fungal infections can spread in the air also. Oh, and air droplets would be the most likely way a terrorist would try to disperse an infection.
How Long Can Germs Live Outside the Body?

Some germs live for quite a while after they leave the body. Most viruses die within a few hours—very seldom more than a day or two. A few types of bacteria can form a wall around themselves called a spore, go into a sort of hibernating state for a very long time, and reactivate if they get into a living body. Examples are anthrax, the bacteria that cause botulism, and tetanus.

  • Food and water. One common way for this to happen is if the germ lives in the feces of an infected person or animal and that somehow gets into the food or water.

Some germs live in only one or more bodily fluids. Others may live in only one area some of the time, then in only another area at other times.

2. The germ causing the infection has to find a way to get into your body.

Depending on the germ, it can possibly enter through:

  • A break in the skin
  • A mucous membrane such as the lining of the mouth, nose, eye, vagina, or rectum
  • The mouth or nose into the intestine
  • The mouth or nose into the lungs

3. After entering the body, the germs have to multiply.

That means getting by several layers of your immune system. Many, many germs that enter the body never make it past this.

>> Page 2: 4 simple ways to ward off most scares of the week