West Nile virus, Legionnaires’ disease, salmonella, Hantavirus – all are potentially deadly illnesses and all are on the rise. The Doctors show you how to stop these dangerous outbreaks and more before they spread.
“Hantavirus is found in the urine, saliva and droppings of infected rodents, and can cause a significant and fatal infection, particularly in the lungs,” explains E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork.
After exposure, the symptoms of the Hantavirus can often take weeks to present themselves, and may also be nonspecific or similar to symptoms of the flu virus. “You may have fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath,” Dr. Travis says. “[Doctors] don’t have a specific treatment for it, so if you are having significant symptoms, if you’re having trouble breathing, you’ve got to get it checked out.”
People infected with the Hantavirus need to be closely monitored in a hospital setting with the supportive care of IV fluids and possibly a ventilator. “What [doctors] are trying to do in the hospital is [to] get your body to a place where it can fight off this infection,” Dr. Travis adds.
Legionnaires' disease, also known as legionellosis, is caused by the bacterium legionella, which can cause serious respiratory infection and lead to a fatal form of pneumonia.
The legionella bacteria thrive in places where there is water present, contaminating water sources and even air conditioning units. Outbreaks will often affect a large group of people if they are all exposed to the infected water supply.
Symptoms of Legionnaires' Disease:
• Cough accompanied by mucus and blood
• Loss of appetite
Fortunately, since Legionnaires' disease is a bacterial infection instead of a viral infection, it can be treated effectively with antibiotics.
Preventing Bacterial Infections
• How to prevent the spread of fungal infections.
Ear Buds, Ear Infections?
Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Andrew Ordon explains whether sharing ear buds can increase the risk of an outer ear infection.
Shocking Source of Nasal Congestion
From the mouth to the ears to the nose, kids will often put things in places where they don’t belong. Parents Craig and Emily join The Doctors to explain what was causing abnormal congestion and nasal symptoms in their son, Isaac. You’ll never guess what item was found inside Isaac’s nose!
West Nile Virus
Alarming news reports on West Nile virus are becoming more and more common as an increasing number of people are stricken with the sickness. “[West Nile virus] is a mosquito-transmitted illness,” Dr. Travis explains.
Reported cases of West Nile outbreaks have predominantly been in Texas and the surrounding states; however, West Nile virus has actually been found in 48 of the 50 United States.
West Nile virus only becomes deadly if it progresses into a neurologic infection; however, only one percent of people who contract West Nile virus will have a form of this severity. Roughly 20 percent of those infected will present with flu-like symptoms and approximately 80 percent will have no symptoms at all.
“I do want to remind people that 30,000 people a year die from complications of the regular flu,” Dr. Travis adds. “While West Nile virus is very scary, these numbers [of infections] are still significantly below what we see on an annual scale with the regular influenza virus.”
• Learn how climate and drought affects West Nile outbreaks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to control two outbreaks of salmonella – one found in cantaloupes and another in mangos.
“[Salmonella] affects up to 40,000 people per year, sometimes more, and is [caused by] fecal-oral transmission, which is a very common cause of food poisoning,” Dr. Travis explains.
Symptoms of salmonella can present themselves in the forms of fever, chills, headaches and general feelings of systemic illness; however, the most common symptoms are primarily gastrointestinal – abdominal cramps, nausea and severe diarrhea, which can, in turn, lead to life-threatening complications from dehydration.
“Worldwide, millions of babies and young children die from diarrhea – dehydration,” pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. “The people at most risk for a severe case [of salmonella] are [at] different ends of the age spectrum – young infants and the elderly, and then anybody with a decreased immune system.”
“And that category includes pregnant women,” OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson adds.
• Learn more about salmonella.
Jessica and Brian, parents of four, are concerned about their family’s health after a recent move into a new condo that was, unbeknownst to them, infested with cockroaches. Two of their boys suffer from asthma, so discovering cockroaches became an even greater distress.
Their 2-year-old began experiencing raspy coughing fits, snoring and labored breathing within two days after moving in. Jessica joins the show via phone to address her apprehension and determine whether cockroaches are truly the cause of her son’s respiratory flare-ups.
“Most people would think about maybe mold in the house or dust mites, but cockroaches actually are a pretty common cause of allergic reactions, including asthma,” Dr. Sears says. “You think it may be the cockroach itself, and it could be the cockroach proteins, but it’s more likely the cockroach feces.”
“Sixty percent of asthmatics suffer from allergic asthma,” Dr. Travis explains. “For your kids, it could be cockroach feces, it could be pet dander, it could be dust mites. These are very common triggers in [a] home.”
“It’s so much easier to treat the asthma if you know what causes it, so get tested,” Dr. Sears adds.
Beating “Black Death”
Think the bubonic plague is a centuries-old sickness that no longer affects people in modern day? Think again!
“The bubonic plague has killed over 100 million people over the course of history,” Dr. Travis states. “It is a bacteria and the reason that we haven’t had to deal with it lately is because it can be treated. Without treatment, the death rate is over 50 percent.”
Learn how two people, a 59-year-old man and a 7-year-old girl, were both stricken with the ancient illness and survived.
“The classic sign of the plague is what’s called a bubo,” Dr. Sears says. “It’s a large, swollen lymph gland either in the neck or the armpit or in the groin sometimes, and that’s when doctors will start to key in [that] this might be the plague.”
“The good news is that, as far as we know, these are two isolated cases,” Dr. Travis adds. “Just be aware of it, but don’t live in fear of it.”
• More information from the CDC on the bubonic plague.