As we well know, the arrival of summer is going hand in hand with rising temperatures. As a result, elevated temperatures increase the spread of some microorganisms, as they multiply more easily under these conditions. So what are the most significant pathogens of the summer?
What is a pathogen?
A pathogen can be any microorganism that is capable of causing or infecting diseases in its host, i.e., the living being in which it can settle. In other words, this definition would cover, for example, pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and other more complex microorganisms.
It should be noted that some of the following diseases have a diverse origin due to their overall clinical picture. In other words, the infection may be due to a different genus or even a different sect of the microorganism. Nevertheless, grouping of microorganisms is performed to simplify treatments.
What are the most important pathogens of the summer?
Inflammatory viruses and bacteria
Eye and ear infections are contagious diseases that can spread during the summer, for example in shared swimming pools. Ophthalmitis is located in the conjunctival layer of the eye, the mucous membrane that surrounds the inside of the eye. In addition to the apparent ocular inflammation, its symptoms include:
- Redness of the eyes
- Eye leakage
- Yellow scab
Ophthalmitis can be of both viral and bacterial origin , but the most common are infections caused by adenoviruses that spread through direct contact and contaminated water particles.
On the other hand, otitis is most often caused by a bacterial infection if we talk about ear infection located in the outer ear canal. Depending on their location, the inflammation can be called internal or external otitis. Its clinical symptoms are as follows:
- Hearing difficulties
- Pain in the ear
- Touch sensitivity
Both pathologies have something in common; both pathogens, be they viruses or bacteria, survive well in warm waters and temperatures. For this reason, swimming pools are ideal breeding grounds for them.
In order to avoid the spread of eye and ear infections, it is important to ensure adequate hygiene measures and, where possible, to use only personal equipment, as these micro-organisms will also survive on different surfaces for some time.
At the same time, it is good to keep in mind that most of the irritation to the eyes or ears caused by pool water is due to the chlorine content of the water. To ensure a level of hygiene, the water in domestic swimming pools is regularly recycled, filtered and cleaned, so it is quite unlikely that you will get an eye or ear infection from these waters. In addition, to avoid the spread of bacteria and viruses, swimming pools recommend washing in advance. The use of swimming caps, goggles and earplugs is also recommended and should not be shared with others. You should also not go to public swimming pools when you are ill.
Who among us would not have occasionally suffered from nasty diarrhea after a holiday trip or a barbecue season in warm weather? Food poisoning is unfortunately on the agenda of many in the summer.
Food poisoning occurs, firstly, because rising temperatures contribute to the multiplication of many infectious organisms, and secondly, the eating and cooking habits of many change during the holiday season. It is not the same to eat indoors at home in a controlled environment as, for example, on a public beach, in a park, or in any other environment where we cannot, for our part, influence the hygiene of food.
According to the MedlinePlus portal, some of the most common pathogens that cause food poisoning and diarrhea are:
- Bacteria of the genus Campylobacter; gram-negative bacilli, which are able to move by means of lines or fragels.
- E. coli bacteria that usually live in the human gut microbiota without causing complications. However, there are various strains of this bacterium that cause diarrhea by sticking to the intestinal mucosa.
- Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium with two known serotypes that cause cholera.
- The genus Salmonella of bacteria, which has a higher than normal ability to reproduce at high temperatures.
As we can see, almost all pathogens that cause food poisoning or diarrhea are of bacterial origin. This is mainly due to the fact that the animal’s microbiota is easily mixed with meat if not handled properly. Especially in the case of food poisoning from trips abroad, it is also very common for the water used for cooking or cleaning dishes to be contaminated.
Other significant pathogens
The above-mentioned pathogens are probably the most significant pathogens during the summer, but at the same time we cannot fail to mention other microorganisms that tend to spread as temperatures rise.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), insects also infect up to ten very common diseases in humans. Infections increase precisely during the spring and summer, as the period of insect reproduction ends in adults at this time, when the prevalence of insects that spread infectious diseases is also at its highest. In tropical countries, the most common of these diseases include dengue, malaria, leishmaniasis, and yellow fever, which are often caused by viruses and protozoa.
- In Finland, common insect-borne diseases include Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. Tick-borne fever is still a very rare disease, but in Finland about 7,000 people get borreliosis every year. However, with medical advances, it is possible to identify and treat Lyme disease in a timely manner. A vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis has also been developed, which is part of Finland’s national vaccination program. It is available free of charge to people living in high-risk areas, such as Åland and some parts of Southwest Finland.
- Fungi that cause skin diseases are also very common during the summer. Once again, public spaces such as swimming pools and spas serve as an ideal breeding ground for fungal spores, as the high humidity and high temperatures of these spaces favor their growth.
As we have already seen, the list of pathogens that cause various diseases is almost endless. Bacteria play a leading role because they cause both inflammation and almost all forms of gastroenteritis and diarrhea.
For this reason, we need to follow careful hygiene measures, especially during the summer and when we travel on vacation to tropical destinations. Infectious diseases that spread especially in summer are usually very mild in Finland and do not necessarily require medical treatment at all. At the same time, however, it is important to keep in mind that, especially in the case of an infection acquired abroad and when mild symptoms become more severe or prolonged, a doctor is always consulted for possible further examinations and appropriate treatment.