Every day your body wages war against enemies that are silent and unseen but potentially deadly. Foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites, threaten your health. Most microbes do not cause disease. This article focuses on microorganisms and other infective agents that threaten your health.
You are not likely to be aware of those battles because your immune system repels or destroys most of the invaders before the onset of symptoms. Sometimes, however, the harmful germs gain the upper hand. If so, you may need to bolster your defenses with medicine and other treatments.
For thousands of years, people knew virtually nothing about the dangers of microscopic or other small harmful organisms. However, when 19th-century scientists confirmed the link between germs and disease, we became better equipped to defend ourselves.
Medical researchers have since eliminated or greatly reduced the threat of some infectious diseases, including smallpox and polio. Recently, however, others, such as yellow fever and dengue, have made a comeback. Why? Consider these factors:
1. Every year, millions of people travel around the globe, often transporting disease-causing agents. According to an article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, “virtually all of the contagious virulent infections” can be spread by international travelers.
2. Some bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics. “The world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections … can once again kill,” states the World Health Organization.
3. Civil unrest and poverty often hinder government efforts to control the spread of disease.
4. Many people lack practical knowledge of how to prevent disease.
Despite these disturbing trends, there is much you can do to protect yourself and your family. The following will show that, even if you live in a developing land, simple and effective strategies may be within your reach.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM DISEASE
Many ancient cities were protected by massive walls. If an enemy breached just a small section of a wall, the safety of the entire city was at risk. Your body is like a walled city. How you care for your defenses has much to do with how healthy you are. Consider five elements that can expose you to disease and how you can put up the best possible defenses.
THE THREAT: Harmful organisms can “march” straight into your body by way of contaminated water.
YOUR DEFENSE: The best defense is to protect your water supply from contamination. If you know that your water supply is contaminated or suspect that it is, you can treat the water at home to make it safe. Store portable water in a closed vessel, and dispense it hygienically with a clean ladle or through a tap. Never put your hands into a clean water supply. If possible, you should try to live in a community that properly disposes of human waste so that it does not contaminate local water sources.
The World Health Organization recommends several methods to improve water quality at home, including chlorination, solar disinfection, filtration, and boiling.
THE THREAT: Harmful organisms can be present in or on your food.
YOUR DEFENSE: Contaminated food may look fresh and nutritious. So get into the habit of thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables. Ensure that food utensils, kitchen surfaces, and your hands are clean when preparing or serving food. Some foods require cooking at a certain temperature in order to destroy dangerous microbes. Beware of food that is discolored or has an unpleasant odor or taste –signs that an army of microorganisms could be waiting for you. Refrigerate unused food as soon as possible. Avoid preparing food for others when you are sick.
THE THREAT: Some insects can infect you with the harmful microorganisms that live inside them.
YOUR DEFENSE; Limit contact with disease-carrying insects by staying indoors when they are active or by wearing protective clothing, such as long sleeves and long trousers. Sleep under treated insect nets, and use personal insect repellent. Eliminate containers of stagnant water where mosquitoes could breed.
THE THREAT: Microbes that live harmlessly inside an animal can threaten your health. If you are bitten or scratched by a pet or another animal or exposed to its feces, you could be at risk.
YOUR DEFENSE: Some people choose to keep their animals outside the house to minimize contact with them. Wash your hands after touching a domestic animal, and avoid all contact with wild animals. If you are bitten or scratched, wash the wound thoroughly and seek a doctor’s advice. Injuries from venomous creatures usually require emergency medical attention.
THE THREAT: Some germs can invade your body by riding on tiny droplets in someone’s cough or sneeze. They can also spread through skin contact, such as hugging or shaking hands. Microorganisms from other people may lurk on such items as doorknobs, handrails, telephones, or computer screens and keyboards.
YOUR DEFENSE: Do not share personal items, such as razors, toothbrushes, or towels. Avoid contact with body fluids from animals or from other people, including blood and products derived from blood. And do not underestimate the benefits of WASHIN YOUR HANDS thoroughly and frequently. It is perhaps the most effective way you can stop the spread of infection.
If possible, stay home when you are sick. The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve, but not into your hands.
The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself. How true are those words today in a world plagued with potentially dangerous diseases! So inform yourself by consulting local health services, and conceal yourself from danger by practicing good hygiene. Bolster your defenses, and reduce the risk of disease!
BEWARE OF ANIMAL ANTIBIOTICS
For a long time, the World Health Organization [WHO] has warned about the excessive and unnecessary use of antibiotics for farm animals that are not sick. According to the Spanish newspaper ABC, the drugs have been routinely added to animal feed “in order to fatten the farm animals quickly.” Recently, a Danish study has shown that raising animals can be profitable without the help of antibiotics.
When the farmers eliminated antibiotics from animal feed, chicken production were unaffected and the cost of pork production increased by only 1 percent. WHO has applauded the Danish initiative and is encouraging other countries to take similar measures. Doing so, says the paper, “would be beneficial for public health as well”
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH
Whether they are rich or poor, many people fail to see the link between their habits and their health. They may regard enjoying good health as a matter of chance or as something over which they have little control. Such a fatalistic view holds many back from improving their health and leading a more productive life.
In reality, whatever your financial circumstances, there are basic steps you can take to protect and greatly improve your own health and that of your family. Is doing so worth the efforts? By all means! You can increase the quality of your life and avoid needlessly shortening it.
By word and example, parents can teach their children to form good habits, resulting in better health. The extra time and expense involved will be repaid in reduced suffering, less time lost to illness, and less money spent on medical bills. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.