Back to Common Health Problems

Preventable Health Problems



A Communicable disease is one which is transmitted from an infected person to another person or from an infected animal or insect to man or from infected soil to man.

Factors which affect the spread of disease are:

(1) The host or person affected: age, status of health, immunity, habits and customs, nutrition.

(2) The Agent: virus, bacteria, fungi, protozoa – where and how they live (habitat) and how strong they are (virulence).

(3) The Environment: climate, unsafe water, contaminated soil, poor housing, poor sanitation, presence of animals, infected insects, rats and stray dogs. The social environment such as income and standard of living, occupation and religion also affect the occurrence of disease.

Levels of disease prevention:

(1) Primary Prevention: This includes promotion of health and specific protection. Many disease much as cholera, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, may be prevented by improving the health of the person especially by better nutrition, also by safe water supply, sanitation and personal hygiene, health education, health examination and improved standard of living. Specific protection of communicable disease is by means of immunisations.

(2) Secondary Prevention: This is by means of early diagnosis (case detection) effective treatment. By this means, further cases of disease in the community and epidemics can be prevented. Early diagnosis methods are by means of:

(a) Regular physical examination.
(b) Screening of total population for specific disease.
(c) Selective examination of people at risk.

(3) Tertiary prevention includes:

(a) Disability Limitation: When a person reports and the disease has already started, his treatment is aimed at limiting disability preventing complications and death.

(b) Rehabilitation: This means restoring the person to health as far as possible physically, socially and psychologically.

Control and Prevention of Communicable diseases – General Measures:

Now we will consider the following general measures in the control and prevention of communicable disease:

Disinfection: This is most important weapon in the fight against the spread of communicable diseases. Disinfection means the destruction of disease germs. The excreta and discharges, clothing and any articles used by the patient, and his surroundings, will need to be disinfected.

(a) Concurrent: This is disinfection of infectious materials such as stools, urine, bed-linen during the course of an illness.
(b) Terminal: This is disinfection carried out at the termination of an illness, whether it is recovery or death of the patient.
(c) Prophylactic: This is to prevent disease. Boiling of water, pasteurisation of milk and washing the hands with soap and water are examples of Prophylactic disinfection.

Disinfectants may be classified as follows:

(a) Natural Agents includes sunlight and air: Sunlight kills many bacteria and some viruses. Drying effect of air kills many bacteria.
(b) Physical agents: The use of dry heat and moist heat. Dry heat, for example burning or incineration of infected dressings, rags and swabs. This kills all organisms. Paper may be used to help in burning of moist articles. Moist heat: boiling and autoclaving.
(c) Chemical Agents: Articles which would spoil by using heat are disinfected by the use of chemicals.

Prevention of cross infection:

Cross infection means the infection of one patient by another or by the staff caring for patients in hospitals. Cross infection in hospitals is a serious problem even in developed countries.

Preventive measures for cross infection include:

(1) Isolation of infectious patients.
(2) Hospital staff, who are infected should be kept away from work until cured.
(3) Barrier Nursing.