Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites and can spread from one person to the next. In Australia they are generally not life-threatening, but they can cause serious discomfort and illness, depending on the disease. Some diseases are classified as Notifiable Diseases and your doctor must report it to the Department of Health. This allows authorized health personnel to undertake further investigation to trace back the source of the disease and prevent others from being infected. Further information on infectious diseases is available on the Department of Health website.
How can I prevent infection?
Diseases are transmitted in a variety of ways depending on the actual disease. To reduce the chance of infection there are some simple precautions you can take including;
- Follow good hygiene practices.
- Wash hands for about 20 seconds, making sure you wash your thumbs, between your fingers and back of your hands and dry with a single use towel before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, changing nappies, blowing your nose or after any contact with body fluids such as blood or vomit.
- Cover your nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the rubbish bin. If you don't have a tissue cough or sneeze into your elbow not your hands.
- Effectively clear and sanitize environmental surfaces with soap and water and a disinfectant particularly in food preparation areas.
- Wear protective clothing such as gloves and masks in dusty situations such as when handling soils in the garden.
- For some diseases such as measles, chickenpox, influenza etc. vaccines are available which will help prevent you contracting the disease or reduce the disease severity. Ensure you and your family's immunisations are up to date. More information on immunisation can be found here.
- Some diseases such as Ross River virus are transmitted by mosquitoes so the best precaution is to prevent being bitten. More information on mosquitoes can be found here but in general you should;
- Apply insect repellent containing either diethyl toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin. Certain natural or organic repellants may provide some protection, but are generally not as effective as DEET or Picaridin.
- Avoid mosquito-prone areas, especially at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are more active.
- Wear loose-fitting, light coloured clothing. Mosquitoes can bite through tight-fitting clothes and they’re attracted to the dark and dark colours.
- Ensure you have properly fitted fly screens installed on your windows and doors.
- Eliminate any occurrences of stagnant water or quantities of water around your property.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms will vary from one disease to another. More information on different diseases can be found on the Department of Health web page Health Conditions A to Z.
Your doctor or other medical provider will be able to provide professional advice on treatment solutions applicable to the actual disease in question.
What to do if you have an infectious disease?
If you have an infectious disease you should follow the advice of your doctor or other medical provider. Depending on the nature of your work you may also need to inform your employer. In general you should isolate yourself for the period in which you are infectious to others and this will vary depending on the disease. People who are suffering from gastroenteritis should not go to work, school or undertake group activities until symptoms have stopped for 24 hours unless they work in a high risk setting (health care, residential care, child care or food handlers) in which case they should not return to work until symptoms have stopped for 48 hours.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
The latest information relating to Coronavirus in Western Australia can be found on the Department of Health website here.