Infectiology is a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis, management and treatment of various infectious or contagious diseases. Infectious diseases can be caused by various bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. The term “infectious disease” is not synonymous with the word “infection”. Infection is a process whereby pathogens first invade the organism’s tissues, and then start to multiply and induce a reaction in the host by their activity and toxins. The spreading and therefore also prevention of infectious diseases largely depends on the characteristics of the pathogen. Several pathogens (e.g. influenza virus) spread through contact with a sick a person or his or her infected bodily fluids. Other, less contagious infectious diseases require a longer and/or different type of contact to be spread. Pathogens may spread directly (touch contact, droplet infection, needle prick injuries) or indirectly (through air, objects, food and water, insects etc). Proper hygiene (e.g. washing hands, right coughing technique) plays a crucial role in the prevention of many infectious diseases. Separating patients known or suspected to be infected from other people for a certain period of time is called quarantine.
Epidemiology of infectious diseases is becoming a more and more important branch of medicine, because new infectious diseases are constantly discovered, now and then older diseases tend to reappear, and antibiotic resistance has become a critical topic. In addition to that, epidemiological analysis may give useful hints when diagnosing diseases. Fast and effective diagnostics plays a vital role in keeping the infectious diseases under control, therefore new diagnostic tests are constantly developed to get faster and more reliable answers. Nowadays the most common infectious diseases are diagnosed by means of molecular methods (e.g. PCR). Infectious diseases physicians also give advice to other doctors on infectious diseases and manage the treatment of HIV and AIDS, for example. Although specialists in other fields of medicine are able to solve most of the problems related to infectious diseases themselves, infectious diseases physician are still needed for more complicated cases. In hospitals, infectious diseases physicians deal with hospital infections and infection control. As the resistance to antibiotics is a growing problem in the contemporary world, one of the most important tasks of infection control is to formulate rules on the use of antibiotics, analyze the use of antibiotics, and give advice on antibacterial treatment. Infection control also registers all cases of cut and needle prick injuries as potential ways of transmitting pathogens. One way of preventing infectious diseases is vaccination. Vaccination causes a reaction of the immune system to a pathogen and this leads to the development of permanent or temporary immunity. Vaccination prevents infectious diseases from spreading, thus helping to avoid outbreaks of diseases. As some diseases are present in only certain regions of the world, it is reasonable to vaccinate against these diseases only before travelling to these regions. In making such decisions, the epidemiology of infectious diseases is once again useful, providing information for formulating official vaccination schedules and recommendations. Before travelling to exotic places, it is advisable to contact a travel medicine office for consultation and getting necessary vaccinations.
Infectionist’s consultation142 clinics
An infectious diseases physician, also known as an infectionist, is a specialized doctor in the field of internal medicine whose competence covers the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. An infectionist’s duties include vaccination and travel medicine counseling, but also prevention and treatment of serious bacterial and viral infections. Before travelling to developing countries or tropical areas one should always think about vaccination counseling. Infectionists also treat and monitor immunodeficient patients.