GERMS: OTHER SOURCES OF INFECTIONS

Venereal diseases

Venereal diseases are spread mainly by sexual intercourse. The two main venereal diseases are syphilis and gonorrhoea.

Insect bites

Bites of insects are a source of infection because insects carry germs either in their mouths or in their excrement. An insect bite makes a tiny break in the skin, like the puncture of a hypodermic needle.

Malaria and yellow fever are carried by certain mosquitoes. If you visit areas where malaria exists, protect yourself against mosquitoes. Use a salve with an odour that repels them, and arrange mosquito netting over your bed. There is no immunization against malaria.

Animal bites

Any animal bite that breaks the skin should be thoroughly washed with soap and water and cleansed or cauterized by a doctor.

Rabies (hydrophobia), a virus disease that affects the brain and nervous system, comes from the bite of infected dogs and other domestic and wild animals that harbour the virus in their saliva. If the animal is infected, the person bitten must receive the Pasteur treatment or the new serum to prevent rabies, which is an inevitably fatal disease.

Due to the geographical isolation of Australia and New Zealand, plus stringent animal quarantine regulations, both countries have been kept free from this viral disease.

Wounds and scratches

All cuts, wounds, and scratches are potential entrances for infections. They should be washed with soap and water.

One of the most serious dangers from wounds and deep scratches is tetanus (lockjaw). The tetanus germ is commonly found in the soil and wherever there are horses, cows, and manure. It is also found in the dust of city streets. A deep puncture by a nail is serious. Many people think it is the rust of the nail that causes trouble, but that is not true. The danger lies in the germs that may be on the nail.

The best preventive against tetanus is immunization by toxoid. A series of three toxoid injections followed by a fourth about a year later, with booster shots at four-year intervals, provides the best possible protection against this serious disease.

For the person who has not been immunized with toxoid, deep wounds or scratches require tetanus antitoxin (TAT). Some people suffer unpleasant reactions to TAT. For this reason, doctors always test for possible sensitivity to the horse serum with which TAT is made. Recently, TAT made from human serum has become available.

Take reasonable precautions

I hope that after reading this chapter, you will take sensible precautions against possible infections. Make it a habit not to drink out of glasses or use towels that others have used, to stay away from sneezers, and to keep yourself and your house clean.

What about a household disinfectant such as Lysol, mixed in the proper proportions? Personally, I feel that there is danger of using such disinfectants as a substitute for cleanliness rather than as an aid to cleanliness. Sprinkling a little around makes everything smell so antiseptic that there is a strong temptation to go easy on the soap and water and elbow grease!

If you take reasonable precautions to keep germs away, you will find that there is enough room in the world for you to get along and stay healthy in spite of them.

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