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Streptococcal Infections

Strep is short for Streptococcus, a type of bacteria. There are several types. Two of them cause most of the strep infections in people: group A and group B.

Group A strep causes:

  • Strep throat - a sore, red throat. Your tonsils may be swollen and have white spots on them.
  • Scarlet fever - an illness that follows strep throat. It causes a red rash on the body.
  • Impetigo - a skin infection
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease)

Group B strep can cause blood infections, pneumonia and meningitis in newborns. A screening test during pregnancy can tell if you have it. If you do, intravenous (IV) antibiotics during labor can save your baby's life. Adults can also get group B strep infections, especially if they are 65 or older or already have health problems. Strep B can cause urinary tract infections, blood infections, skin infections and pneumonia in adults.

Antibiotics are used to treat strep infections.

Acute Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus. It can also cause shortness of breath, wheezing, a low fever, and chest tightness. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.

Most cases of acute bronchitis get better within several days. But your cough can last for several weeks after the infection is gone.

The same viruses that cause colds and the flu often cause acute bronchitis. These viruses spread through the air when people cough, or though physical contact (for example, on unwashed hands). Being exposed to tobacco smoke, air pollution, dusts, vapors, and fumes can also cause acute bronchitis. Less often, bacteria can also cause acute bronchitis.

To diagnose acute bronchitis, your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and listen to your breathing. You may also have other tests.

Treatments include rest, fluids, and aspirin (for adults) or acetaminophen to treat fever. A humidifier or steam can also help. You may need inhaled medicine to open your airways if you are wheezing. Antibiotics won't help if the cause is viral. You may get antibiotics if the cause is bacterial.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Bird Flu

What is bird flu?

Birds, just like people, can get the flu. Another name for bird flu is avian influenza. The viruses that cause bird flu normally only infect birds, including chickens, other poultry, and wild birds such as ducks. But sometimes the viruses can infect other animals and, in rare cases, people.

A few types of these viruses have caused most of the infections in people. They are the H5N1, H7N9, and H5N6 viruses. These infections in people have mainly been in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Pacific, and the Near East. Although it's very rare, there have also been some infections in people in the United States.

How do you get bird flu?

The most common ways you can get bird flu are from:

  • Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after handling infected live or dead birds
  • Touching surfaces or handling items contaminated by bird flu viruses and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Breathing in droplets or dust contaminated with the virus

It's also possible (but very rare) to get bird flu from:

  • Another type of animal who has bird flu. Bird flu can also infect many other animals, including some dogs, cats, certain wild and zoo animals, and livestock such as cattle. These animals can then spread the flu to people.
  • Another person.
  • Eating poultry, eggs, and beef that were not properly handled and cooked.
  • Drinking raw milk.
Who is more likely to get bird flu?

Certain people may be more likely to get bird flu, including:

  • Poultry workers
  • Animal handlers
  • Wildlife biologists
  • Disease control workers
  • Research laboratory workers
  • Veterinarians
  • People who travel to countries where bird flu is present
What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?

Sometimes bird flu doesn't cause any symptoms. But if you do feel sick, your symptoms can range from mild to severe. Often, the symptoms are similar to the (seasonal) flu, such as:

  • Fever (but not everyone has a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Eye redness (conjunctivitis)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Diarrhea

People with severe illness from bird flu may have pneumonia and might need to be hospitalized.

How is bird flu diagnosed?

Laboratory testing is used to diagnose bird flu. It's usually done with a nasal or throat swab. This testing is more accurate when the swab is collected during the first few days of illness.

For people who are severely ill, health care providers may do testing of a different sample, such as fluid taken during a bronchoalveolar lavage or other procedure.

What are the treatments for bird flu?

Bird flu is treated with antiviral medicines. It's important to get them as soon as possible. The medicines may make your illness less severe.

You may also be given antiviral medicines if you were exposed to a person or animal who has the virus. This may help prevent you from getting sick.

Can bird flu be prevented?

There is currently no vaccine available to the public. The government has developed a virus that is similar to some H5N1 viruses. The virus could be used to produce a vaccine for people, if needed.

It's important to take precautions to prevent bird flu:

  • If you have a job or pastime that puts you in contact with birds or other animals, make sure to use proper protective equipment.
  • Otherwise try to avoid direct contact with wild birds and other animals.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching birds or other animals.
  • Since it's possible to get bird flu through some foods, make sure to handle and cook your food safely and avoid raw milk.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Breathing Problems

When you're short of breath, it's hard or uncomfortable for you to take in the oxygen your body needs. You may feel as if you're not getting enough air. Sometimes you can have mild breathing problems because of a stuffy nose or intense exercise. But shortness of breath can also be a sign of a serious disease.

Many conditions can make you feel short of breath:

  • Lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, or pneumonia
  • Problems with your trachea or bronchi, which are part of your airway system
  • Heart disease can make you feel breathless if your heart cannot pump enough blood to supply oxygen to your body
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Allergies

If you often have trouble breathing, it is important to find out the cause.

Chest Pain

Having a pain in your chest can be scary. It does not always mean that you are having a heart attack. There can be many other causes, including:

  • Other heart problems, such as angina
  • Panic attacks
  • Digestive problems, such as heartburn or esophagus disorders
  • Sore muscles
  • Lung diseases, such as pneumonia, pleurisy, or pulmonary embolism
  • Costochondritis - an inflammation of joints in your chest

Some of these problems can be serious. Get immediate medical care if you have chest pain that does not go away, crushing pain or pressure in the chest, or chest pain along with nausea, sweating, dizziness or shortness of breath. Treatment depends on the cause of the pain.