s: Illness & Infections

We share this world with a variety of pathogens, and so illness is an unfortunate fact of life. This information will help you better understand the processes that make you sick, including the type of pathogens that spread disease.

Types of infections

Illness-causing infections come in 2 basic forms: there are bacterial infections, caused by tiny microscopic organisms otherwise known as bacteria, and viral infections, caused by viruses.

Examples of bacterial infections:

  • Severe sinus infections or those that last longer than 10 days
  • Certain types of ear infections
  • Strep throat
  • Certain skin and wound infections, such as staph infections
  • Bladder infections
  • Food-related illnesses caused by food poisoning.

Examples of viral infections:

  • Most bronchitis cases
  • Common colds
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Coronavirus
  • Most chronic coughs
  • Most ear infections
  • Most sore throats
  • Stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis)

Both types of infections can result in similar symptoms, but there are important distinctions in how they spread and how they are treated.

What is a Prion

A few diseases are caused by prions; a misshapen protein that gets into an animal’s cell and is then replicated. Prions aren’t living things and can persist in the environment for years. They are passed out in the saliva, urine and feces of infected animals, and then can infect humans or other animals who eat the prions or acquire them via sexual transmission. Affected animals slowly become disoriented, lose their appetite and die. Mad-cow disease and chronic wasting disease are two examples of prion caused maladies.

Myth: If your mucus is green, you have a bacterial infection and need an antibiotic.
Truth: While it is true that a yellow or greenish-looking nasal discharge suggests bacteria are present and producing pus, there are many other things that could also lead to similar colored mucus. It could be a normal byproduct of your body’s processes that fight off infection. For example, some of the enzymes released by red blood cells to kill invaders contain iron, which can turn mucus a greenish color. Even if it is a bacterial infection, use antibiotics only as a last resort and under a doctor’s advice, since overuse not only builds up bacterial immunity, but also disrupts your microbiome, killing off good bacteria as well.

Information on specific types of illnesses, pathogens and infections