Protect yourself and your family with infectious disease prevention, education and treatment.
What is an infectious disease specialist?
All of us get sick at one time or another. Infectious disease specialists are board-certified physicians who research, diagnose and treat a wide range of infections that may be difficult to diagnose, are resistant to treatment, or are more complex or severe than your average illness.
Infectious disease 101.
There are four types of infections. Some of these diseases need intervention by an infectious disease specialist.
Bacteria are single-cell germs. Bacteria live everywhere in and on our bodies naturally without making us sick. But when there is an overgrowth of a harmful bacteria, you will start feeling ill and may need antibiotics to clear it up. If left untreated, bacterial infections will become serious and life-threatening.
Examples of bacterial infections include:
- Strep throat
Viruses are tiny germs that contain genetic material. They can spread through the air, through skin contact, through secretions like saliva or through blood. Unlike bacterial infections, they cannot be treated with antibiotics. Instead, the symptoms can be treated or your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication if necessary.
Viruses can cause extremely common illnesses such as a cold, warts or the flu. They also cause serious and deadly diseases.
Examples of viral infections include:
- Hand, foot and mouth disease
- Chickenpox and shingles
- West Nile virus
- Zika virus
Fungal infections can be pretty common in the form of athlete’s foot or yeast infections. But if they are slow to heal, resistant to antifungal treatments or if they begin inside your lungs or other areas inside your body, you may need the help of an infectious disease specialist.
People who have complications from fungal infections tend to be older or have weakened immune systems. Taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection can also cause an overgrowth of fungi, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor about taking a probiotic supplement.
Other examples of fungal infections include:
- Fungal sinusitis
- Fungal meningitis
- Pneumocystis pneumonia
Parasitic infections occur when living organisms, some large enough to be visible to the naked eye, enter your body and use it for food and shelter. Parasites can enter your body through contaminated food or water, a bug bite or through sexual contact.
Some parasites are fairly easy to eliminate. While picking up a parasitic infection does happen in the United States, travelers to other parts of the world need to take care that they are drinking clean water at all times.
Examples of parasitic infections include:
You won’t be able to stop every infection from entering your body, but there are things you can do to prevent disease.
- Get vaccinated and get your children vaccinated
- Wash your hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom
- Wear a mask when in public to stop the spread of COVID-19
- Be mindful of food and water safety
- Use safe sex practices
- Don’t share certain hygiene items such as toothbrushes, make up and hair brushes or combs
If you are diagnosed with an infection, talk to your doctor about how to prevent the spread of communicable disease.
When should I see an infectious disease specialist?
If you feel ill, make an appointment with your primary care doctor first. Your doctor may refer you to an infectious disease specialist if:
- Your infection is resistant to antibiotics
- You need additional evaluation or testing to diagnose your illness or infection
- You have a complex diagnosis or a highly communicable disease such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or measles
- You have been bitten by a wild animal
- You picked up an infection while traveling that is not common to the U.S.