Infectious diseases are illnesses caused by harmful organisms (pathogens) that infiltrate your body. Some examples of these pathogens that cause infectious diseases are viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and prions. Let’s break them down:
- Viral infections. Viruses are a piece of information (DNA or RNA) inside of a protective shell (capsid). Viruses are much smaller than your cells and have no way to reproduce on their own. They get inside your cells and use your cells’ machinery to make copies of themselves.
- Bacterial infections. Bacteria are single-celled organisms with their instructions written on a small piece of DNA. Bacteria are all around us, including inside of our body and on our skin. Many bacteria are harmless or even helpful, but certain bacteria release toxins that can make you sick.
- Fungal infections. Like bacteria, there are many different fungi. They live on and in your body. When your fungi get overgrown or when harmful fungi get into your body through your mouth, your nose or a cut in your skin, you can get sick.
- Parasitic infections. Parasites use the bodies of other organisms to live and reproduce. Parasites include worms (helminths) and some single-celled organisms (protozoa).
- Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs/prion diseases). TSEs are caused by prions — faulty proteins that cause other proteins in your body, usually in your brain, to become faulty as well. Your body is unable to use these proteins or get rid of them, so they build up and make you sick. Prions are an extremely rare cause of infectious diseases.
Below are some common infectious diseases that you should become familiar with. We have also included some rare ones because it is always good to be aware of what’s lurking microscopically around us!
What’s Plaguing Us? Podcast
Be on the lookout for our podcast What’s Plaguing Us? featured on the UM Libraries’ Roundabout Oxford Podcast! Hosted by our University Health Services Director, Alex Langhart, What’s Plaguing Us covers public health topics focusing on infectious diseases throughout history and how humanity has been impacted. Segments will be posted to this page along with the link to the full Roundabout Oxford Podcast!
Sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, followed by coughing and sneezing. Most people recover in about 7-10 days. You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold: wash your hands often, avoid close contact with sick people, and don’t touch your face with unwashed hands.
Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to get a cold any time of the year. Symptoms usually include:
- sore throat
- runny nose
- body aches
Most people recover within about 7-10 days. However, people with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions may develop serious illness, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Causes of the Common Cold
Many different respiratory viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common. Rhinoviruses can also trigger asthma attacks and have been linked to sinus and ear infections. Other viruses that can cause colds include respiratory syncytial virus, human parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus, common human coronaviruses, and human metapneumovirus.
How to Feel Better
There is no cure for a cold. To feel better, you should get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms but will not make your cold go away any faster. Always read the label and use medications as directed.
How to Protect Yourself
Viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact. You can also get infected through contact with stool (poop) or respiratory secretions from an infected person. This can happen when you shake hands with someone who has a cold, or touch a surface, like a doorknob, that has respiratory viruses on it, then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose.
You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash them for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular handwashing can help protect you from getting sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick.
- Stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.
What should I know about the Omicron variant?
Omicron: There is still much to learn.
Symptoms of COVID-19 Omicron variant can look more like allergies:
- Head/Ear pressure
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Is Omicron more transmissible? There is some preliminary evidence suggesting the omicron variant is more infectious than the delta variant.
Does Omicron cause more severe illness? There is still limited data on this, but so far the answer appears to be no.
Do masks work against Omicron? Upgrading your mask can improve the protection it offers you. Disposable medical grade masks and KN95 masks work significantly better than cloth masks. Remember – it is all about how snug it fits to your nose and mouth.
Do monoclonal antibodies work against Omicron? Unfortunately, it’s now also apparent that the two most commonly available monoclonal antibodies are much less effective against the omicron variant. Sotrovimab seems to be the only monoclonal antibody treatment currently still effective against the variant, but it’s not widely available right now.
What can we do? The best way to stay safe from COVID-19 — the omicron variant included — is to be aware of your surroundings and community spread in your area, as well as exercise the COVID-19 precautions that we know work, including:
- Getting vaccinated and
- Getting your COVID-19 booster once eligible and
- Wearing a mask and
- Social distancing in indoor public spaces and
- Avoiding indoor crowds and
- Washing your hands and avoiding touching your face
Schedule your vaccine appointment here at one of many locations!
What should I do if I feel sick?
- Shortness of breath
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Muscle or body aches
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you develop these symptoms or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, call Health Services or your primary healthcare provider.
You can also contact Baptist Memorial Hospital’s 24-hour hotline for additional information – 866-941-4785.
How do I report my positive COVID-19 result?
There are two ways this can be done.
- Fill out the UHS Self Report form, scan or take a picture of your results and upload both the form and your results to our HIPAA compliant UMBOX. Only University Health Services personnel will be able to view your documentation.
- Students: Call Student Health at 662-915-7274 (Mon, Tues, Wed and Fri, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thurs, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.)
- Employees: Call Employee Health at 662-915-6550 (Mon–Fri, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.)
Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in Oxford?
Both Student and Employee Health have a variety of COVID-19 tests. Call to schedule today!
Besides University Health Services, here are some other clinics in town where you can be tested:
County Health Department Drive-thru Sites
Sign up here: https://covidschedule.umc.edu/
Family Medicine Group of Oxford
1397 Belk Blvd, Oxford, Mississippi
Saturday 9am-3pm, Sunday closed
Ole Town Med
2580 Jackson Avenue West Suite #44, Oxford, Mississippi
Monday – Friday: 8am – 8pm
Saturday 10am – 4pm
Sunday 12pm – 6pm
Oxford Family Clinic
1914 University Avenue, Oxford, Mississippi
Monday thru Thursday 8am to 5pm
Friday 8 am to 12 pm
Oxford Urgent Care
1929 University Ave., Oxford, Misissippi
Open 7 days a week, 8am to 7pm
1902 B West Jackson Avenue, Oxford, Mississippi
Sign up here: https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/covid19/testing?ban=covidfy21_newtestingpg_heroban
Sign up here: https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing
What is the current guidance for isolation and quarantine?
MSDH recommends individuals who test positive for COVID-19 be excluded from the college setting and remain in Isolation for a full 5 days, even if you have been vaccinated. Stay home until at least 5 days have passed since symptoms began (or since positive test if you have no symptoms) AND you have no more symptoms or your symptoms are improving with no fever.
What is an exposure?
- The current definition of exposure to COVID-19 remains 15 minutes of cumulative contact over a 24-hour period at <6 feet. An infected person can spread COVID-19 up to 2 days before they have symptoms or 2 days prior to positive test if they have no symptoms, therefore, contacts should be identified who were exposed up to 2 days prior to onset or test date accordingly.
Who doesn’t have to quarantine?
- As of August 11, 2022, CDC states that quarantine of exposed persons is no longer recommended regardless of vaccination status.
- CDC states that persons who have had recent confirmed or suspected exposure to an infected person should wear a mask for 10 days around others when indoors in public and should receive testing ≥5 days after exposure (or sooner, if they are symptomatic) regardless of their vaccination status
For more information, please review the updated CDC Guidance on Quarantine and Isolation.
When should I seek medical attention?
If you have any of these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.
Vaccines & other prevention strategies
Employees and students can walk-in any day to Pharmacy Health Services inside University Health Services for free COVID-19 Vaccines.
The best way to help prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a number of preventive actions to follow including:
- GET VACCINATED. Sign up at one of the many drive-thru sites in Mississippi here.
- Wear a mask indoors or when in tightly packed groups with others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses.
What are current treatment options?
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. It has been approved for emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent the progression of COVID-19 in high risk groups. They may block the virus that causes COVID-19 from attaching to human cells, making it more difficult for the virus to reproduce and cause harm. Monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 must be administered in the early stages of infection for the drugs to work effectively.
The monoclonal antibody bebtelovimab (Eli Lilly) is a product authorized by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19. This treatment requires an order from a licensed and authorized healthcare provider and must also be administered by a qualifying healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider to see whether a monoclonal antibody is the right option for you.
Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody use for prevention in individuals with weakened immune systems, such as cancer treatment patients.
Oral antiviral therapies Paxlovid (Pfizer) and molnupiravir (Merck) are products authorized by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19. These therapies require a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to see whether an oral antiviral is the right option for you.
How they work: Oral antiviral medications work by targeting specific proteins on the SARS-CoV-2 virus to help prevent the virus replicating within the body. It is important that the oral antiviral is started within 5 days of the start of symptoms.
Who can receive treatment?
People who test positive for COVID-19 with mild to moderate symptoms who are at higher risk for developing more serious COVID-19 symptoms may be eligible for monoclonal antibody or oral antiviral treatment, depending on their health history and exposure to COVID-19, and how long they’ve had symptoms of COVID-19.
What should I do if I think I need them?
If you have tested positive, reach out to Student Health or Employee Health to discuss with a provider.
COVID-19 is stressing me out
It’s normal & understandable to feel anxious, especially if you live in an affected community. If you are feeling increased stress or anxiety, please contact Student Health Services at 662-915-7274 or the University Counseling Center at 662-915-3784. Click here for coping tips.
For more information from the university on COVID-19 response, click here.