Northern Wilds Magazine
Along the Shore

Zombie Infections: They’re Never Really Gone

Actually called latent infections, zombies infections lie dormant in a person’s body, hiding from the immune system, and often cause no symptoms until they come raging back. They can be difficult, or impossible, to treat.

LATENT VIRAL INFECTIONS
  • Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) causes sores on or in the mouth or genitals, and is spread through direct physical contact.
  • Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) causes chickenpox and shingles. It’s highly contagious and can be dangerous, even deadly, especially for babies, pregnant people, or people with weakened immune systems.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) impacts a person’s immune system and makes them less able to fight off infections and other diseases. It can lead to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. There are multiple strains, and they can cause health issues such as genital warts and cancer.
  • Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus that injures the liver. It can be acute or chronic, and you might not notice symptoms until after the damage is done.
LATENT BACTERIAL INFECTIONS
  • Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne bacteria that can cause illness upon infection. If not treated correctly, TB can be serious, or even fatal.
LATENT PARASITIC INFECTIONS
  • Toxoplasma gondii is the most common parasitic infection. It can cause serious complications for people with weakened immune systems or babies born to infected mothers.

Protecting Yourself from Zombies

For chickenpox, shingles, and HPV, vaccination is a safe and effective way to make sure that you or your children don’t have to fight off zombie attackers. The chickenpox vaccine protects kids while they’re young and protects them from shingles when they’re older. HPV vaccination slashes the chances of a child ever developing cervical cancer.

There’s currently no vaccine for herpes or HIV. Protect yourself from herpes by avoiding intimate contact (kissing or sex) during an outbreak. HIV can only spread if bodily fluids are shared, so use condoms correctly and don’t share injection drug equipment. Toxoplasmosis can be prevented by making sure meat is thoroughly cooked and cat litter boxes are only cleaned by people that are not at risk for complications.

Not Really Scary at All!

It makes good sense to take preventive measures to protect ourselves and our families from dangerous zombie infections. On the flip-side are protective things that have gotten an undeserved scary reputation.

DEET

Available since 1957, DEET is the standard against which all other insect repellents are measured. It repels multiple biting insects, including mosquitos, ticks, flies and fleas. When used correctly, there are virtually no health hazards from DEET, for either adults or children.

FLUORIDE

This mineral safely helps to build and protect tooth enamel. It’s added to drinking water and dental products. Because these products contain concentrated amounts of fluoride, small children should always be supervised to ensure they don’t eat or drink them while brushing their teeth.

THIMEROSAl

Thimerosal preserves vaccines and prevents them from becoming contaminated. Its chemical name is Ethylmercury (EtHg). It’s very different from its cousin, Methylmercury (MeHg). Methyl is poisonous and can build up in our food—that’s why we should limit our consumption of certain types of fish. On the other hand, Ethyl has very low toxicity and is rapidly metabolized and excreted from our bodies. Its safety has been researched for decades, and there’s no link between its use and any type of health problem.

Receiving Multiple Vaccines at the Same Time

Antigens are foreign substances, such as germs or vaccines, that cause an immune response. We encounter a huge number of antigens every day just by eating, breathing, and moving around in our germ-covered world. The number of antigens that are in any combination of vaccines is minuscule compared to that. Vaccines are safe and effective, and the approved schedules and combinations have been carefully developed to provide maximum protection.

This is a condensed version of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s “Topic of the Month” newsletter. To read, listen, or subscribe, visit: sawtoothmountainclinic.org.

By Hartley Newell-Acero

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