What Is A Pathogen?

By definition, a pathogen is any disease-producing agent. This includes viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasitic worms…and the list goes on. Basically, it is an invader that attacks its hosts’ body because it is trying to live and procreate. Yuck. Unfortunately, pathogens have evolved over the years and become stronger. Pathogens have developed highly specialized mechanisms that allow them to cross cellular and biochemical barriers. In fact, your symptoms only contribute to the survival and multiplication of the pathogen. It’s like an alien invasion of your body.

How Do Pathogens Spread?

Pathogens usually enter the body through the mouth, nose, eyes, urogenital openings or open wounds. But how do they get there in the first place? This can happen in a variety of ways: direct contact to an infected host; through food, water or bodily fluids; airborne transmission (like a sneeze); or by touching contaminated surfaces. Did you know a sneeze can travel up to 200 feet?! And where do all those particles land? If you’re in public, pathogens could be on virtually everything you touch.

Why Are Pathogens A Problem?

As pathogens get stronger, the resulting diseases cause an increasing amount of illness and deaths each year. Remember this year’s flu season? It was one of the worst yet. According to the CDC, recent flu seasons range from 37 to 171 pediatric deaths in the United States. Who knew that by the year 2018 people would still be dying from the flu? Schools have been shutting down all over the country to ride out the flu season and prevent more hospitalizations and mortalities. That’s just one type of illness. There are countless pathogens that cause all kinds of infections and diseases.

How Do Pathogens Spread?

Sadly, pathogens do prey on those with weak or compromised immune systems. This can include infants, children, elderly individuals and those with chronic illnesses like cancer. This makes shared environments like airports, buses, hospitals and clinics a risk for these individuals. If you have children, you may remember the nurses cautioning you on your way out of the hospital against bringing your newborn out in public too much or having too many people touching her. That’s because new babies’ underdeveloped immune systems are not apt to handle these highly strategic pathogens.

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