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Infectious Disease and Risk

There are six characteristics of infectious disease agents which determine whether or not an infectious disease will be transmitted to and infect a host. These characteristics also influence the severity of the disease and even the outcome of the resulting infection. these characteristics are as follows:

-Infectivity: The ability of the agent to enter a host and multiply to an infectious dose, thereby producing the infection or disease.
-Pathogenicity: The ability of the agent to cause disease in an infected host.
-Virulence: This term refers to the severity of the infection. A highly virulent strain of a disease agent will most always produce severe cases or death.
-Toxigenicity: This term refers to the ability of the agent to produce a toxin. The resulting illness or disease is from the toxin produced by the organism/agent and not the microorganism itself.
-Resistance: This term refers to the ability of the agent to survive under adverse environmental conditions. It is also a measure of the agent's fragility.
-Antigenicity: This term refers to the ability of the agent to induce antibody production in the host. Agents that have a high antigenicity have a very low reinfection rate, whereas, agents with a low antigenicity rate have a higher reinfection rate.

Based on the above list of the most significant characteristics of infectious disease agents please answer the following questions or complete the stated tasks:

1.Identify three characteristics that you consider to be of significant importance when identifying diseases which would place those persons in a community at greater risk. (Some diseases pose a greater threat to persons likely to be exposed as a function of the characteristics presented above than other diseases.) Therefore, another perspective on this question is as follows: "If you were exposed to a disease, which of the above characteristics would be of greater concern to you as an individual."

2.Justify your position on selecting the three characteristics of a disease agent that you believe place those exposed to it at a greater risk.

3.Briefly discuss why the remaining three characteristics of infectious disease pathogens were not considered by you to be as significant as those you identified above.

Solution Preview

1 + 2) If you were exposed to a disease, which of the above would be of greater concern to you as an individual. Why?

We can technically look at this in two ways: likelihood of acquiring disease from infection and likelihood of serious (e.g. life threatening) pathology due to infection. The answer to this question may actually change depending on the way we decide to tackle this question, but we will assume that exposure to a disease implies that an infection is inevitable, in which case I would rank these in order of importance to the severity of the disease forthcoming.

If we were to consider how likely exposure to the disease would cause an infection, then 3 characteristics would be fairly obvious:

Infectivity - this directly measures how likely an agent is capable of penetrating defenses and infecting a host
Antigenicity - directly measures how well our immune system is capable of mounting an adaptive response to the agent, thus affecting infectivity and subsequent infection
Pathogenicity - measures the capacity of an agent to cause disease once it is within a host, thus causing the signs and symptoms of infection, ...

Solution Summary

Infectious disease and risks are examined.

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