Notions on “communicability”

Grade 2 up to 3rd year college, it was normal for me to share that I’ve had an enteric communicable disease. In fact, some sort of bragging rights could be extracted from it because I found out (to my amazement) that not everyone was admitted in hospitals when they were kids and some have never even experienced blood extraction.

One day while on hospital duty, we were lounging in the student’s section with our clinical instructor and our conversation diverted to personal health. When I shared my flawed medical history, my CI’s reaction surprised me. He looked at me as if I might infect him anytime, the you-repel-me look. Ever since, I have not brought up my past in casual talks.

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I was admitted in the hospital almost 2 weeks ago for the same reason and after I was discharged, I noticed the changes in the way certain people treat me. An aunt wouldn’t let me near my 10-month old nephew and godson because she said I was still “fresh” from the hospital and I need to recuperate for at least a month. I saw another relative get another glass after I took a sip from her drink and another spoon when I took a bite of her salad. I understand that they’re just having precautions but I’m a nurse and I know when I can infect and when I can not.

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I don’t know, it just irked me. Maybe because I’ve read of lepers stripped off everything and cast out by society in ancient times (apparently it still occurred in the 1800/early 1900s as manifested by Doyle’s story The Blanched Soldier). Maybe because I was never the excessively conscious person with regards to health, heck, I talk to tuberculosis patients wearing a simple face mask and I’m fine (nothing beats my dutymate Mikki though, who, with bare hands touched a bedpan with worm-infested stools, ekkkk). Maybe because people’s ignorance on the difference between “communicable” and “contagious” gets on my nerves. Maybe because I sympathize with those who have been prejudiced just because they have a certain illness (whoopsie, I’m one of them even if mine is curable).

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A little lesson then, on communicability care of my notebook during review classes.

Communicable disease is an illness due to infectious agents or their toxic products. In short, when there’s bacteria or virus involved, you can bet it’s communicable. The other side of the coin is non-communicable disease sometimes dubbed as “lifestyle disease” and there’s been some shift in the percentage of these two in terms of mortality in the past hundred years but we’re not talking about that.

Another concept is the Mode of Transmission (MOT). It is the conveyance of agent to host or simply put, how the disease can be acquired. Now this is important because believe me, not all cases involving infectious agents can be obtained through air or physical contact.

Take mine for example, its MOT is fecal-oral meaning, I am infectious as long as the bacteria are excreted in my stool and I can infect you if, after defecating, I decide not to wash my hands and then force you to suck them when we see each other. Gross but that’s the most visual example I can think of. It can also be transmitted through vehicles (food, water, etc) by way of, well, fecal-oral — me preparing your freshly-squeezed orange juice when I did not wash my hands properly after taking a dump.  No, it does not go the other way around. Again, fecal-oral. Not oral-fecal, not oral-oral and definitely not fecal-fecal.

Another is HIV/AIDS. I really can’t believe those who judge and treat people with this illness as if they deserve it. Not everyone who is HIV positive is promiscuous. I’ve met people who were faithful but were unfortunately married to adulterers. And I’ve heard of nurses who, by one stroke of bad luck got pricked and lo and behold. There are stories behind every case, but I digress.

Back to communicability. Unless you have sex (any form) with an infected person or come into contact with his blood (needle prick, open wound, bleeding gums, etc), you’re safe. Sadly, HIV can be transmitted from mother to fetus/baby via the placenta and possibly, breast milk. Still, it is safe to shake their hands, hug or even kiss them (it takes 1 liter of saliva for a person to be infected). In fact, it is WE who are dangerous. A simple virus that our immune system can easily attack and annihilate can be fatal to them. As the acronym says, they are suffering from acquired Immuno-deficiency syndrome.

There are a lot of other things when it comes to communicability but the post would be too long. Besides, curiosity is better than spoon-feeding in terms of learning.

I just hope people are more sensitive.

P.S. I am not expelling millions of bacteria unto the outside world anymore, Thank God (and antibiotics)!

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