A chronic infection usually means that an infection has been present for a long time or keeps on recurring. In general, long standing infections develop after an acute infection. Acute infections usually last a few days but prolonged infections can last several weeks or even months. In rare cases, one may not even be aware of the occult infection and thus continue to transmit it to others.
Worldwide, infections claim millions of lives each year. The chief reason is due to unsanitary living conditions and poor hygiene. The sad truth is that the majority of these infections can be prevented by implementing preventive care measures. An infection is chronic in medical terms when an individual has the following symptoms:
– Persistent fatigue lasting 3 months or more
– Weight loss
– Low grade fever
– Decreased white cell count
– Night sweats and chills
– mild to moderate pain
A prime example of a recurrent infection is hepatitis C and AIDS. Both these disorders usually have no symptoms in the early stages and yet the individual remains infectious. Once acquired, HIV cannot be cured and it is considered to be a long standing infection because the virus remains in the body for years. Hepatitis C similarly can be acquired from sexual intercourse, blood transfusions or sharing of infected needles. The diagnosis of hepatitis and AIDS are usually only made after a blood test. In most cases of hepatitis C, the majority of individuals go on to become chronic carriers of the virus. Moreover, signs and symptoms of liver damage or even cancer may not appear for 15- 20 years after the infection is acquired.
Other more common recurrent infections include ear infections in children, tuberculosis, herpes simplex, Lyme disease and hepatitis B. With recurrent infections, the organism continues to damage the body and then causes repeated symptoms. Eventually long standing infections weaken the immune system and the individual becomes symptomatic. This manifests as weight loss and extreme malaise.
The diagnosis of a long standing infection can be difficult as the symptoms are not specific. In any case, if an infection is suspected, blood cultures, chest x-rays or stool analysis are usually the first steps taken. Depending on the individual and cause, chronic infection treatment may require hospitalization and use of intravenous antibiotics. In most cases of chronic infection treatment, one tries to improve the nutritional status and adopt changes in lifestyle. Since infections can cause serious damage to the body, recovery can be long and protracted. Besides the infection, one also has to treat the complications and increase energy level.
The best way to avoid chronic infection is to adopt healthy life styles, eating good nutritious food, exercise on a regular basis, avoid tobacco and limiting alcohol intake.a