For many people, hearing the word “germ’” causes them to picture thermometers and medicine, phone calls to the doctor’s office, and a calendar full of activities that must be rescheduled due to illness. While germs can, indeed, make you sick, they can play other roles as well. Also, it is not inevitable that coming into contact with a germ will doom you to sickness.
What Is a Germ?
A germ is a microorganism, or extremely small living thing, that can cause disease. Germs are very prevalent, and they are present in the air, inside the human body, in water and soil, in food items, and on plants and animals. Some different types include viruses, fungi, bacteria, helminths, and protozoans.
What Diseases Can These Germs Cause?
Germs have the ability to cause a wide variety of diseases. Perhaps the most widely recognized are the illnesses that are caused by viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Viruses can cause influenza, the common cold, AIDS, measles, chickenpox and shingles, Ebola, and genital herpes. Fungi are responsible for ringworm, athlete’s foot, and thrush. Bacteria can lead to tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, and strep throat.
Helminths and protozoans also bring about serious maladies. Helminths, which include roundworms and tapeworms, can lead to parasitic invasions that deplete the body of nutrients. Protozoans can cause malaria, toxoplasmosis, and giardia.
How Can People Protect Themselves From Germs?
To lessen the spread of germs, and to avoid the illnesses they cause, people can avoid having close contact with others who are sick. Although people might not be able to maintain germ-free hands, they can greatly decrease the amount of germs by thoroughly washing their hands with soap and water.
Alcohol-based sanitizers offer an acceptable alternative if soap and water are not available. People can also refrain from touching their face in general, and they can try not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth in particular.
Are Germs Always Harmful?
Although germs have a reputation for causing illness, certain types have a beneficial role, and others pose no threat to the human body. Some fungi, such as yeast, mushrooms, and cheese molds provide us with food products. Certain kinds of bacteria, such as those residing in the intestines of humans, are not harmful and aid in food digestion and nutrient production.
And when it comes to protozoans, many of these microorganisms live harmlessly in the intestinal tract. Finally, exposure to germs can help stimulate the immune system so that it is better equipped to defend the body from illness the next time it encounters those germs.
Germs might now seem more interesting, and fungi might seem more fun!