Published on December 08, 2017

Common Infections and How to Prevent Them

Infectious DiseasesFor Baby Boomers

Common infections can happen to anyone, but there are a few infections that more commonly occur in individuals of the baby boomer generation (born between the years 1945-1965). Hepatitis C can infect people of all ages, but research has found that seventy-five percent of all Hep C patients are baby boomers. Hepatitis C is a blood infection that can damage the liver by causing inflammation or swelling that can lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis or liver failure if not treated. Most people who have hepatitis C will not experience symptoms, and can have it for years before being diagnosed.

The CDC recommends all baby boomers be tested for Hep C, but risk factors that may be a sign to get tested include:

  • Exposure to unsterile needles or shared needles
  • Diagnosed with HIV
  • Received a piercing or tattoo in an unclean environment using unsterile equipment
  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
  • Were born to a woman with a hepatitis C infection

Even if you have none of these risk factors, it is still important to talk to your primary care provider about getting tested since nearly half of infected people don't have or recall any risk factors.

Another infection that is most commonly found in people of the baby boomer generation or older is shingles. Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox that has reactivated later in life. Common signs of shingles include:

  • Pain that starts as a tingling numbness and becomes more severe in some cases
  • A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • Itching

Dr. Robert Comer, infectious disease specialist at the Regional Center for Infectious Disease at Cone Health, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about preventing Hep C and Shingles in Baby Boomers.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from person to person through intimate or sexual contact with an infected individual. There are many different kinds of STIs, but the most common include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Herpes
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Syphilis

The most reliable way to prevent STIs is to abstain from having sex, but there are other ways to minimize your risk of infection:

  • Vaccination – for those infections that have a vaccine, such as hepatitis B and HPV.
  • Monogamy – committing to one, uninfected person will reduce your exposure to STIs.
  • Practice safe sex – use condoms during any sexual encounter to prevent the spread of STIs.

Even though it may be uncomfortable, it’s important to discuss STIs with your partner to prevent the spread of infection. 

Dr. Carolyn Harraway-Smith, OB/GYN at Cone Health’s Center for Women’s Healthcare, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about the most common sexually transmitted infections.

HIV/AIDS

In the United States, more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), although one in seven don’t know it. There are 2 large challenges in facing the HIV epidemic today. The first challenge is finding those who are infected with HIV and bringing them into care. These undiagnosed but often highly infectious individuals have been responsible for up to half of the new infections every year. While some individuals can be at a higher risk of infection, it is important for all individuals ages 15 to 65 get tested for HIV regularly.

The second major challenge is keeping those who have HIV infection consistently engaged in care. Some proportion of those individuals who are known to have HIV and has been engaged in care fall out of care and are consequently not on medications that could keep them healthy and also prevent transmission to others. HIV transmission from those individuals who actually do know their status but are not connected to care is becoming an increasing driver of the epidemic.

The role of clinical trials is critical, helping HIV go from an untreatable virus that conferred a premature death sentence to a highly treatable easily controllable, if not yet curable infection. Now we know how to treat HIV with powerful drugs, many of them in “all-in one,” single tablet regimens that are easy to take and to tolerate.

Dr. Cornelius “Kees” Van Dam, infectious disease specialist and the director of research at the Regional Center for Infectious Disease at Cone Health, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about AIDS and the currently available clinical trials.