Acute respiratory infections (ARI) represent a group of diseases that occur in the respiratory system and are caused by various microorganisms (viruses and bacteria); They are usually contagious and therefore spread quickly. They are considered to be the leading cause of morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases worldwide. Specifically, figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that almost four million people die from these infections every year.
ARIs are among the most common reasons for doctor consultations or hospitalizations. They primarily affect children and older adults; However, people of other ages can also suffer from it.
Type of transmission: common denominator
The usual mode of transmission of most acute respiratory infections is through droplets that people expel when they cough and sneeze; That is, the microorganisms are transmitted when the uninfected person is in close contact with a sick person. A person can also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their nose or mouth.
The incidence of ARI and its spread in the population varies depending on various factors such as environmental conditions (weather season, temperatures, crowded homes and hygiene in general), personal aspects (age, immune and nutritional status, suffering from other diseases). or smoking), the characteristics of the virus or bacteria (mode of transmission and virulence) and the effectiveness of medical care combined with infection prevention and control measures to limit its spread. Spread (e.g. vaccination).
Types of acute respiratory infections and possible complications
It is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus that affects the nose, throat and, in certain cases, the lungs. It can be mild or severe and in certain cases can be fatal.
Anyone can get the flu and its serious health consequences can occur at any age; However, those most at risk are those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, children under the age of five and those with certain chronic medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease or asthma).
Potential complications of flu include pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and even worsening of the patient’s chronic conditions.
- Respiratory syncytial or syncytial virus (RSV)
This respiratory virus causes infections in the lungs and respiratory system in humans. It is usually quite common in children (most are infected by the age of two), but can also affect adults.
In healthy people, symptoms are mild (nasal congestion, dry cough, headache and sore throat, and low-grade fever) and may resemble a common cold, which can be managed with self-care measures. However, RSV can also cause serious infections in other populations, such as children under 12 months of age (including preterm infants), people with heart disease, lung disease, or a weak immune system, and older adults. Signs in these cases include increased coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and even cyanosis (blue skin color due to lack of oxygen).
RSV can cause pneumonia or bronchiolitis; In fact, it’s the more common cause of both. Add to that middle ear infections – particularly in infants and young children – asthma, the possibility of reinfection with the virus, and even hospitalization to monitor and treat any respiratory problems.
Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococci. It includes several types of infections – some mild, others can have long-term consequences – including pneumococcal pneumonia, which is estimated to kill about 1 in 20 people.
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), pneumococci are the second most common cause of community-acquired pneumonia, after respiratory syncytial virus, which may require hospitalization. Complications of pneumococcal pneumonia include infection of the space between the membranes around the lungs and chest, the sac surrounding the heart, and airway obstruction.
This bacterium can also cause other infections, such as pneumococcal meningitis, an infection of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. It is estimated that one in 12 children and one in six older adults die from the infection, while others may suffer from long-term problems such as hearing loss and delayed development.
Pneumococci can also cause sepsis (the body’s extreme response to infection), the complications of which can include everything from kidney failure to lung, heart, and brain damage.
In general, pneumococcal infections occur more frequently between the ages of two months and three years, with the risk increasing again from the age of 65.
Covid-19 disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and people who contract it can develop mild to moderate respiratory illnesses. However, some others can become seriously ill and even require medical attention. Post-Covid-19 symptoms include: fatigue, shortness of breath, shortness of breath, and cough; Muscle or joint pain, blood clots and blood vessel problems.
In addition, patients with severe disease can develop inflammation, immune system problems, kidney, skin and heart damage, and other diseases (diabetes).
Anyone can get Covid-19, but older adults and people with other illnesses (cardiovascular, cancer or respiratory diseases) are more likely to develop serious illness.
Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that commonly cause respiratory diseases such as the common cold, bronchiolitis, and even pneumonia. As a result of this latter condition, children with pneumonia can trigger chronic lung disease. Another condition they can experience is infections of the intestinal tract (under the age of five), including blockage of part of the intestine.
What to do to prevent possible infection?
According to Pfizer, the best time to stop a virus or bacterium is before it can infect a human. In this regard, vaccines represent one of the greatest advances in public health to prevent possible transmission of diseases such as influenza, pneumococcal disease and Covid-19. Its widespread use has enabled the control, elimination, or near elimination of many infectious diseases.
Other ways to prevent transmission of these infectious microorganisms include:
- Avoid proximity to people with respiratory diseases to minimize contact with drips or salivary secretions.
- Wash your hands regularly, especially after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
- Provide a clean environment.
- Avoid sharing eating or drinking utensils, toothbrushes, or towels.
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing.
- Try not to smoke around babies, as they are at higher risk of contracting RSV.