Observing simple tips and taking precautions can prevent health hazards during the summer vacation season. / Korea Times file
Avoid raw seafood and attend to fractures timely
By Noh Hyun-gi
The summer vacation season is just around the corner. By observing simple health tips and taking precautions, we can all enjoy our time away from work and get fully recharged.
To fully appreciate the importance of staying safe and healthy, just imagine the worst case alternative - vacationing in a hospital bed.
For a safe summer vacation, it is extremely important to be careful about eating seafood. In hot weather, bacteria can thrive, resulting in a lethal form of sepsis.
The Center for Disease Control issued a warning to fans of sushi after a 77-year old man died from bacterial sepsis in South Jeolla Province on May 12.
Sepsis is a condition in which the entire body's defense mechanism is engaged in fighting an initially localized infection. More than 50 percent of people who undergo septic shock die.
The lethal bacterium, vibrio vulnificus, lives in warm seawater.
More than 70 percent of seasonal infections come from contaminated fish and shellfish, according to Choi Won-seok, a professor in the Infectious Disease Department at Korea University Asan Hospital. Bacteria can enter the body through orifices when a person goes into the ocean. The microorganism can stay latent for 2 days on average before symptoms begin.
To avoid contamination, one should store seafood at minus 5 degrees Celsius, and clean knives and cutting boards thoroughly after handling raw ingredients. Washing the fish in tap water helps as chlorine can kill microorganism. Cooking fish and shell food over 56 degrees Celsius eradicates bacteria.
For an average individual, the symptoms of the infection include vomiting, diarrhea and stomachache. Though the symptoms may go away on its own, it can develop into sepsis for people with underlying conditions such as liver disease, hypertension, alcoholism, and diabetes. More than 80 percent of such individuals die from sepsis. Men in their 40s are the most susceptible. Epilepsy patients and people with a history of alcoholism should avoid eating seafood during the summer months altogether. These individuals have elevated iron ion levels in their blood which facilitates the spread of the bacteria throughout the body.
Vibrio vulnificus sepsis cases surface in June and peak in August and September. The bacteria proliferate when the seawater temperature rises above 21 degree Celsius. They are most prevalent off the southwest coast of the peninsula. In 2011, 51 people were diagnosed with the acute illness, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Second, even light bone fractures from hiking and jogging call for medical attention because they can deteriorate into serious cases of inflammation.
Families visiting mountains around the country should study the appropriate response to bone fractures. Without proper warm ups before hiking, people are likely to sprain their ankles from a fall. Left untreated, such slight injuries can worsen into osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone and bone marrow.
Open fractures call for the most attention. When a portion of the bone is exposed, especially when a femur or tibia breaks, germs can enter the body through the opening. The infection can damage bone cells and the soft tissues of the joints and lead to chronic osteomyelitis.
One should call for help after a fall during a hike and try to sit still against a tree or a rock. Wash any wounds with water but refrain from touching them to prevent contamination. Then, he or she should use tree branches or boards to stabilize the fracture and wrap it with clothes.
Oh Jong-gun, a professor of orthopedics at Korea Univeristy Guro Hospital likens these conditions to an iceberg. "The symptoms include fever, intense pain, and swelling of the contaminated area. This can cause fatigue, loss of appetite and chills which may subside on their own. But, if the infection is not thoroughly removed, it can develop into advanced ostemyelitis", in which amputation is the only treatment.
Chronic osteomyelitis can result in complications such as arthritis, and motor disorders.
It is especially detrimental in those with compromised immune systems. Patients with diabetes or hypertension can develop sepsis which can lead to death.
Diagnosis methods include x-rays, CT scans and MRIs to locate affected areas followed by blood tests to identify the bacteria or virus. Treatment options include taking antibiotics and surgical removal of the infection.
"Many hikers do not seek medical help for fractures because they believe it will go away, or they consider it untreatable. Osteomyelitis is difficult to treat and is prone to re-infection. However, continued care from professionals from the early stage can cure it", said Oh.
Source : www.koreatimes.co.kr/... ( English Korean )
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