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10 Reliable Ways to Protect Yourself from Infectious Diseases

Get informed on one of the most reliable ways of bolstering your defence against potentially harmful infections common in today’s world.

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Granted the wide research and advancement in the medical sector, infectious diseases still remains prevalent in our times. Millions suffer from various infectious diseases that are at times either hard to cure or are incurable. Not long ago, if you were present here in Nigeria, you can recall that there has never been a time that Nigeria has ever received a great impact on the threat of the contagious Ebola disease as it would have with terrorism. Growing concerns as regards to the rapid spread of infectious diseases has heightened ever since as humans continue to receive the threat of common colds and influenza, zika virus, avian flu virus etc.


Definitely, not all diseases are considered infectious; but what though constitutes an infectious disease? How does it spread? And how can we play our role in protecting ourselves from them? These are some of the points that this article shades light on to emphasize and raise the level of awareness needed.


What makes a disease infectious?

Diseases are most often applied to the abnormal functioning or disorder in structure of the body organs in part or whole system of an organism. They can be caused by a variety of factors ranging from toxicity, unfavourable environmental conditions, infection, errors in the genetic development of genes etc.


A disease is termed ‘infectious’ when body tissues of an organism is attacked or invaded by disease-causing agents such as bacteria, viruses, prions, fungi, nematodes, arthropods, and other macro parasites. These disease-causing agents could either sap the organ’s tissue of its resources or release toxins or destructive enzymes to the organs. Their multiplication in the body system causes reactions that are observed or diagnosed as signs and symptoms. The symptoms are at times unnoticeable at the initial stage of infection. At times, not all agents of infection cause diseases to their host. For example, not all infected with tuberculosis eventually develop the disease. The strength of the body’s immune system and preventive measures can play a uncompromising role in causing the agents to remain dormant.

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Infectious diseases are also known as ‘transmissible disease’ or ‘communicable disease.’ This means that it can be passed on from one infected organism to the other recipients.


How infections spread

Infections spread through direct or indirect contact.


Direct contacts are through person to person contact as in sexually transmitted disease. While indirect contact can be through mediums such as sharing of infected objects, airborne transmission, environmental reservoirs, person-animal contact, contaminate food and drinks, insect bites and many others.


When a transmissible disease becomes contagious, it means that it can easily spread by contact with an ill person or their secretions, for example sweats. If controllable measures are not put in place, they can spread at a very fast rate within a geological region. For this reason medical expertise encourage strict adherence to medical isolations of the victims.

Measures to protect yourself


  1. Keep your hands clean regularly. It’s important to keep our hands clean at all times because our hands serve as the number one agent of your body members to introduce infection to your body. Especially so, since we subconsciously rub our eyes, nose or handle food with our hands. Moreover, because we cannot see microbes with the naked eye, we cannot necessarily assume that our hands are always clean even if they may not appear dirty.


We must clean our hands regularly after using the toilet, taking out refuse, house cleaning, after visiting hospital areas, coming home from outings, playing with a pet, in contact with ill person, handling raw meat, handling dead body, attending funerals etc.


We can keep our hands clean by:

  • Washing with clean water and soap. We apply adequate amount of soap to our hands after wetting with water and rub hands persistently for not less than 20 seconds before rinsing out. Ensure not to touch the tap handle if touched with dirty hands while turning on the tap. This is particularly important as there have been cases of negligence and fatal consequences on that aspect for those who handle dangerous chemicals even after washing of hands.


  • Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers is necessary when there is no source of clean water available. However, note that hand sanitizers are not much of a guarantee for clean hand as much as hand washing with clean water and soap. Hands must be rubbed with hand sanitizers until they are dry. Ensure that it reaches finger tips and underneath nails.


  • Using hand gloves. Wearing of hand gloves is not limited to hospital or laboratory use. They are in fact necessary at homes when cleaning sensitive areas such as toilets.


  1. Avoid sharing of personal items. Sharing of personal items is common among close friends, family members or couples in intimate relationship. No matter the attachment we have that pushes us to share personal items, we must remember that the consequences always manifest with no partiality. Therefore, it is important to avoid sharing our personal materials such as towels, razor, nail cutters, drinking cups and cutleries, needles etc. Diseases such as chicken pox, mumps, candidiasis, and many others can be prevented through this measure.


  1. Use your own personal equipment.  In receiving services such as getting a haircut or a weave at a barbershop or hair salon, we share items with the public _ numerous persons we have no idea about.  While sharing of some items cannot be avoided, certainly some can be. Not all hairdressers and barbers adhere to proper standard of hygiene in the upkeep of materials intended for the public use. For example, cleaning of materials such as comb and brushes between uses. Since fungi infection and transmissible diseases such as HIV are common, it is not out of place to carry your own personal items for hair and body makeup especially items with sharp edges that are able to penetrate the skin such as weavon needles, and barbing devices.


  1. Good handling and preparation of food. Proper handling of food starts with washing our hands before touching food we eat.  Since germs are present in food, we must in addition, ensure to wash our food properly.  Having food cleaning agents such as salt, vinegar and lime handy in the kitchen is recommendable. If placed outdoors, food must not be kept exposed to avoid perching flies and rodents which are agents of transmission of diseases. Food must always be sealed in solid containers and at proper temperature to discourage growth of microorganisms and food poisoning. Food such as raw meat, seafood and poultry should not be cooked partially. They must be cooked for long and at appropriate temperatures.


Kitchen surface areas and utensils must be cleaned with detergent before and after use. Food items which fall to the floor must also be rewashed if to be used.


Also, pets must be kept outside the kitchen or areas where food is usually stored.


  1. Ensure that your health care provider touches you with clean hands. When visiting a health care centre, remember that you are entitled to good health services and it’s your right. Do not hesitate or be afraid to ask your health care provider if he or she has cleaned their hands since they regularly come in close contact to bacteria and viruses. Encourage them to wear clean gloves when examining your mouth or private parts, touching wounds or drawing blood.


  1. Promote good personal hygiene. Sometimes, we may be tempted to fall into the notion that we are immune to infecting our own selves if we lapse in the area of personal hygiene. If you compare how infections spread from a point of contact i.e. yourself to other persons as to how networks in communication are created to a global scale, from this, you can see that you would not only be endangering others but yourself equally as you would spend more time and resources undergoing incessant treatments. It all comes back to you.


Strengthening our personal hygiene is valuable. We can do so by the example we set for our young ones and adults we interact with on a daily basis.


If we are sick, we would minimise contacts with other people by staying at home, or avoid touching others through handshakes and so forth.  Ensure to cover your nose and mouth while sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Clean your hands afterwards. That requires always in possession of a tissue or hand sanitizer where no water resources are available.


Each time you wear your clothes and shoes, sun dry them regularly and sufficiently to ward off microorganisms that cause infection. Wash clothes whenever they are dirty. Wash your hands and your clothes after having contacts with: an animal, body skin, body fluids of another person, or a dead body (human or animal).


  1. Clean your environment. Keeping our environment clean is another vital step in protecting ourselves from diseases. Just as we would not encourage bad tenants in our houses or premises, so likewise, we would not encourage breeding a host or community of disease carrying agents such as microorganisms and insects around our area.


Ways of keeping our environment clean and safe is by a regular and proper disposal of waste, clean-up of the gutters surrounding the premises where you live, Cutting out weeds regularly if you keep a garden. Cleaning windows, house (both inside and outside), and doorknobs regularly is another step. Avoid keeping body of water exposed so as not to breed insects such as mosquitoes. Discourage water deposits in your premises by having good drainage system and filling pot holes.


  1. Protect your water supply. It is vital that you get regularly updates about water supply to your homes as there are cases where there is leakage in pipes running to homes or residential areas. Broken pipes or leakages introduce contaminants to the water supply. In that case, you can inform the local authorities that oversees such repairs. Additionally, getting an update as to how human wastes are disposed in your community also helps in taking appropriate measures in protecting yourself.


Ensure to drink safe water. We can improve the quality of drinking water in our homes by: not leaving them exposed to contaminants, boiling them and sit to cool before drinking, regularly washing storage vessels, filtration and other methods recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).


  1. Update your immunization. Vaccinations are quite helpful because they help in either to prevent us from getting harmful infections or lessen the effects of it. It assists our immune system to recognise and to combat infectious agents in our body. Failing to update your immunization would put your immune on more stress and lessen its defence. So don’t throw away your vaccination records, keep them safe.


  1. Travel safe and wisely. When travelling, be aware of the fact that each region in the world faces challenges as to the different infectious disease peculiar to it. Travelling is one of the fastest means of spreading infectious disease. Always be informed by your doctor on the important vaccinations you need to get before travelling to the region. Ensure to travel along with prevention kits such as bug spray, mosquito nets, hand sanitizers, and appropriate long-sleeve attires that are necessary.


Be forearmed!

‘To be forewarned is to be forearmed.’ One cannot experience protection from an unexpected thieve at night if he does not remain alert and take measures to protect himself.  Knowing and applying the above tips mentioned in protecting ourselves would reinforce our defences against infectious diseases even against potentially dangerous ones.  So stay regularly updated on current measures of protection, remain alert by always promoting good habits of hygiene, and politely encouraging others to do so would safeguard you from what could have been avoided at first place _ harmful infections and moreover to reap the fruitage of maintain a good health status.

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Mary Utuk

Mary is a Content Developer at InfoGuideNIgeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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