The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Diarrheal Diseases

Diarrheal diseases are defined as having three or more loose stools per day. Caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, diarrheal diseases are spread through contaminated food or water, or because of poor hygiene practices. Many children with diarrhea also have an underlying condition of malnutrition, making them more vulnerable. Diarrheal diseases kill 1.5 million children under the age of 5 worldwide, making it the second leading cause of death among young children.

Symptoms
There are three main types of diarrhea: acute watery diarrhea, which typically lasts several hours or days and includes cholera; acute bloody diarrhea, also called dysentery; and persistent diarrhea, which lasts 14 days or longer. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, the loss of water and electrolytes—sodium, chloride, potassium, and bicarbonate. Signs of dehydration include thirst, irritability, decreased skin elasticity, and sunken eyes. If dehydration becomes severe, other signs appear, such as loss of consciousness, faint pulse, low output of urine, cool and moist extremities, and low blood pressure. If left untreated, dehydration can result in death.

Treatment
A three-pronged approach is used for treatment of these diseases. Zinc tablets are given to reduce the number of diarrheal episodes, followed by rehydration therapy. For severe dehydration, intravenous solutions are given. For mild or moderate dehydration, a solution of clean water, sugar, and salt is used. Eating a nutritious diet can treat diarrhea and prevent it from reappearing.

Prevention
Access to clean water and improved sanitation can prevent the onset of diarrheal episodes. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of life. Education about good personal and food hygiene and how infections are spread also can help prevent diarrheal diseases.

Source:
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/index.html

Explore Other Topics

What do you know about infectious disease?

How many people in the world do not have access to an adequate water supply?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Worldwide, 884 million people do not have access to an adequate water supply, and about three times that number lack basic sanitation services. An estimated 2 million deaths a year can be attributed to unsafe water supplies.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Worldwide, 884 million people do not have access to an adequate water supply, and about three times that number lack basic sanitation services. An estimated 2 million deaths a year can be attributed to unsafe water supplies.

  • Correct!

    Worldwide, 884 million people do not have access to an adequate water supply, and about three times that number lack basic sanitation services. An estimated 2 million deaths a year can be attributed to unsafe water supplies.

Infectious Disease Defined

Respiratory Tract

The part of the anatomy that has to do with respiration, including the nasal passages, trachea, and lungs.

View our full glossary