The Specialty of Infectious Diseases
Infectious Disease specialists are internists with additional training in the treatment and prevention of infections. Our primary job is taking care of people with infections. This includes such diseases as AIDS and malaria, syndromes like pneumonia and meningitis and conditions such as unexplained fevers. We assist hospitals in controlling the spread of infections within the hospital. Practicing Infectious Diseases requires expertise in microbiology, epidemiology, antibiotic use and pharmacology.
Infectious Disease specialists spend most of their time as consultants in the hospital, but many also see a large number of patients in the office. Most of us care for patients with HIV Infection/AIDS and have a unique expertise in this field. Infectious Diseases is the only specialty in which comprehensive care of patients with HIV infection is a required part of the training process. Some Infectious Diseases specialists have centers for Outpatient IV Antibiotic Therapy (OPIVAT), a valuable service which allows people to go home from the hospital sooner while still receiving high quality treatment. Others have developed further skills in Travel Medicine, which encompasses vaccinations, health advice for those going abroad as well as knowledge of parasitology.
What is an Infectious Disease?
An Infectious Disease is a disease caused by germs, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. These diseases are all "caught", hence they are often termed communicable diseases. Some infections, like influenza, are spread from person to person, while others are contracted from animals, trauma, insect bites or even from germs living within our own mouths. Examples of specific infections include Strep throat, mononucleosis, cold sores, athlete's foot, appendicitis, boils, vaginal yeast infections, African Sleeping sickness and tuberculosis. Most infections caused by bacteria, fungi or parasites can be treated effectively with antimicrobial drugs, while most viral infections, like the common cold, are not effectively treated using current agents.
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