St. Luke's University Health Network

Conditions and Services


Treating Infections at St. Luke’s

Infections are caused by invasions of microorganisms in parts of the body. There are many types of infections and they can range from simple to very complex. Some are even life-threatening. While some infections easily can be treated with medications, others may require more aggressive methods. The type and seriousness of the infection will determine the treatment your doctor will recommend

The doctors at St. Luke's are specially trained and experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of the many infections that can affect us. They work to make sure that patients receive the best diagnosis and treatments.

Listed below are some types of infections.

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Abscess – A pus-filled pocket that can develop almost anywhere in the body as the immune system tries to fight an infection.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – Known as AIDS, this syndrome is a disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that damages or kills cells in the body's immune system. HIV is spread through:

  • Unprotected sex with an infected partner
  • Sharing needles during drug use
  • Contact with the blood of an infected person
  • Pregnancy or childbirth (from mother to baby)

Bacterial infections – Infections caused by bacteria, which are microscopic, single-cell living organisms. Some bacteria produce toxins that cause illness. Still, less than 1 percent of bacteria cause sickness in humans.

Chickenpox – A contagious infection of the skin caused by a herpes virus. Symptoms include skin blisters that can appear anywhere on the body, fever or stomach pain.

Chlamydia infection – A sexually transmitted bacterial infection that causes inflammation of and pain in the penis, vagina, ovaries, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and/or anus.

Common cold – A contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory system with symptoms that can include coughing, sneezing, a stuffy nose and a scratchy throat.

E. Coli infections – A bacterial infection of the intestines. While most types of E. coli don’t cause sickness, others can trigger diarrhea, kidney failure or death. E. coli is acquired by eating food contaminated with the bacteria.

Fever – An elevated body temperature that helps the body fight infection.

Fifth disease – A viral infection that can cause fever, cold symptoms and a rash on the face, chest, arms, abdomen and legs. Fifth disease is transmitted through contact with an infected person.

Flu (influenza) - Although everyone is at risk to catch the flu, severity of symptoms and risk of complications may increase in the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Learn more about this respiratory condition.

Fungal infections – Infections caused by fungi, which can live on the body. Fungal infections typically start in the lungs or on the skin. Common fungal infections are yeast infections, athlete’s foot and jock itch.

Gastroenteritis – Inflammation on the stomach and intestines most commonly caused by viral infections. Gastroenteritis also can be caused by bacteria, parasites, food poisoning and more. This condition can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever and more.

Giardia infection – An infection of the intestines caused by a parasite spread I contaminated food or water. Symptoms include diarrhea and stomach cramping.

Gonorrhea – A sexually transmitted bacterial infection that usually affects the cervix in women or the urethra in men, although other areas may be involved. Possible symptoms include pain when urinating, a discharge from the urethra and more.

Hantavirus infection – Caused by germs in the dropping, urine and saliva. People exposed to these germs experience muscle aches, fever, cough and breathing difficulty.

Head lice – Tiny parasites transmitted through contact with an infected person or abject that bite through the skin of the scalp to feed on blood. These bites cause itching and redness.

Hemorrhagic fevers – Viral fevers caused by Ebola and Marburg viruses and Lassa fever virus. Hemorrhagic fevers all prevent the body from regulating itself, target several organs and damage blood vessels. Some of these fevers can be deadly.

Hepatitis A, B, C – A viral infection that causes liver inflammation. It might take some time for the symptoms to appear. These symptoms include yellow eyes and skin (jaundice), flu-like signs (fatigue, diarrhea, fever, etc.), discolored urine and stool and more. Following are the three main types of hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A – Caused by eating or drinking food or drinking water contaminated with feces.
  • Hepatitis B – Typically transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner, transfusions with tainted blood or use of contaminated needles.
  • Hepatitis C – Usually enters the body through exposure to contaminated blood, such as blood transfusions and intravenous drug use.

Herpes simplex – A viral infection of the skin that causes cold sores, fever, sore throat, swollen glands and fatigue. Herpes simplex is spread through saliva, fluid from a cold sore, or germs.

Human papillomaviruses – Also known as HPV, these are a group of more than 100 viruses. Some of them cause warts or cancer, and are transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner.

Impetigo – A bacterial skin infection that appears on the face, arms and legs. Typically, the bacteria is spread from person to person or by through germs on an object touched by an infected person.

Infectious mononucleosis – A viral infection that causes fever, swollen glands and spleen, sore throat and fatigue. Infectious mononucleosis is spread through saliva.

Influenza – A viral infection of the respiratory system. Symptoms include fever, chills, aches, sore throat and cough.

Legionnaires' disease – A lung infection that causes high fever, chills, aches, diarrhea, vomiting and confusion. The bacteria are found in moist environments, such as air conditioners, faucets, whirlpools and more.

Listeria infection – An infection caused by bacteria commonly found in water and soil, but that can also be present in raw and processed foods, and foods made from unpasteurized milk.

Lyme disease – Transmitted by a tick bite, this disease has three stages, as follows:

  • A rash that starts as a red dot develops to look like a bulls-eye. This rash might be accompanied by fever and fatigue.
  • The rash spreads to other body areas. Joint pain becomes more focused, and
  • Eventual problems with the heart, brain, joints and brain may appear months or years after onset of Lyme disease.

Malaria – An infection caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. Symptoms don’t appear immediately and can include fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and fatigue.

Measles – A viral infection of the skin and respiratory system. Symptoms of measles include high fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, runny nose, cough, red eyes, white spots in mouth and throat and a rash on the head that spreads to other areas of the body.

Meningitis – A viral or bacterial infection of the membranes that coat the brain and spinal chord.

Monkeypox virus infections – A rare viral disease carried by monkeys, squirrels and wild rodents.

Mumps – A viral infection that causes pain and selling in the glands between the jaw and the ears. Other symptoms include headache, fever, sore throat and more.

Parasitic diseases – Diseases such as malaria and toxoplasmosis that are caused by parasites, which are living organisms that use other living organisms for food and as a place to live. Parasites of the human body can be transmitted through tainted food and water, contact with a contaminated object, sexual contact and bug bites.

Pelvic inflammatory disease – An infection of a woman’s genital area that most commonly resulting from a sexually transmitted disease. This infection causes cramps, pain during intercourse or while urinating, vaginal discharge from the vagina, unusual menstrual bleeding, vomiting and fever.

Pinworms – Parasites in the large intestine that can cause itching around the anus. Pinworms move into the rectum to lay eggs. Pinworms are transmitted by contact with an infected person or by something they touch, such as a toilet seat. The eggs also can become airborne and inhaled.

Pneumocystis carinii infection – An infection that causes lung inflammation and typically affects people with a weakened immune system. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, fever, fatigue and more.

Pneumonia – Bacterial infection of the lungs that causes inflammation and fluid to build up. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, high fever, chest and abdominal pain and fatigue.

Polio and post-polio syndrome – A viral disease of the nervous system that, through vaccination, has been eliminated in the United States . The virus spreads through human waste, and can cause pain in the legs and arms, fatigue, fever, vomiting and, in rare cases, paralysis. People who have had polio can suffer from post-polio syndrome years later. The symptoms of post-polio syndrome include muscle and joint pain and fatigue.

Rabies – Viral infection transmitted by the bite of an infected animal that affects the central nervous system. The virus in the animal’s saliva causes irritability, sore throat cough and fatigue early on; later, the patient could have difficulty swallowing, irregular breathing and/or heartbeat, and high fever, and exhibit violent behavior

Respiratory syncytial virus infections – A viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by close contact with an infected person. Symptoms include cough, fatigue, runny nose and fever.

Rotavirus infection – A viral infection that usually affects children and causes diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration and fever.

Rubella – A viral illness of the skin and lymph glands that causes a fever, swollen lymph glands, fatigue, joint pain and a rash on the head and body. The virus is spread by contact with an infected person.

Salmonella infection – Caused by the salmonella bacteria most often found in food and beverages. This infection affects the stomach and intestines, causing diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting. It also can cause fever and headache.

Scabies – Small, itchy bumps on the skin caused by tiny bugs called mites that spread from contact with an infected person or by sharing bedding, clothing, towels and more. The mites tend to reside in the areas between the fingers, under the arms, and on the elbows and breasts.

Sepsis – A response to a bacterial infection that causes blood clots. These clots can block blood flow to vital organs, creating potentially deadly results.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome – Commonly known as SARS, this is an illness of the respiratory system. SARS causes high fever, body aches, headaches, breathing difficulty and cough. The virus that causes SARS is transmitted by close or person-to-person contact.

Sexually transmitted diseases – A variety of bacterial diseases caused by sexual contact with an infected partner.

Shingles – A viral infection that causes pain, itching or tingling on the body or face before blisters develop.

Sinusitis – Infection or inflammation of the sinuses, which are the air-filled spaces in the bones inside the cheeks, between the eyes and behind the eyebrows. These air pockets make mucus, which drains into the nose. Sinusitis can be acute (lasting for a short time), or chronic (lasting several weeks or recurring).

Smallpox – Smallpox is a deadly viral disease. Through immunization efforts, the spread of the disease has been halted for decades. Smallpox causes high fever, fatigue, headache, backache, rash and sores.

Staphylococcal infection – More commonly known as a staph infection. There are many types of staph infections, but some of the more common ones are:

  • Skin infections
  • Food poisoning
  • Blood poisoning
  • Pneumonia

Streptococcal infection – More commonly known as strep. There are two types of streptococcal infections, which are bacterial. Among the conditions Group A strep causes are:

  • Strep throat – A sore throat
  • Scarlet fever – Body rash
  • Impetigo –A skin infection

Meanwhile, Group B strep can cause pneumonia, meningitis and blood infections in newborn babies.

Syphilis – A sexually transmitted disease with two forms, contagious and congenital. The contagious type of syphilis is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner. Meanwhile, the congenital form is passed from an infected mother to their newborn babies. Syphilis first appears as a red sore on the genitals, rectum or mouth. If not treated, syphilis can progress to cause swollen lymph glands, rash, headache and fatigue. In rare cases, syphilis can eventually cause damage to the brain, heart, bones, nervous system and more.

Tetanus – A serious bacterial infection in a cut that affects nerves and muscle control. The toxins from the bacteria cause muscle spasms, jaw stiffness, breathing difficulty, headache and more. Because of immunization, tetanus is rare.

Tick bites – Ticks are tiny bugs that live in tall grass, bushes and piles of leaves. Through their bites, these bloodsucking bugs can transmit diseases to people and animals. Common diseases transmitted by a tick bite are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Tinea infection – Commonly called “jock itch,” this is a fungal infection of the skin in the groin area. Symptoms include itchy, scaly patches of skin that can have pus-filled blisters. This fungus grows in dark, wet and warm areas.

Toxoplasmosis – A parasitic infection acquired by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. In most patients, there are no symptoms.

Tuberculosis – A bacterial infection that targets the lungs. Tuberculosis is caused by airborne bacteria. Symptoms include:

  • Coughing (that can involve coughing up blood) that can last for weeks
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

Viral infection – Infection caused by viruses, which are microscopic organisms. Common conditions caused by viruses are colds, flu, warts and AIDS.

Warts – Skin growths caused by a viral infection. There are several types of warts, depending where they appear on the body, including:

  • Common warts – Typically appear on fingers
  • Plantar warts – Found on the soles of the feet
  • Genital warts – Appear on the genital. These warts are a sexually transmitted disease

West Nile Virus – A viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes. The symptoms of West Nile Virus include body aches, headaches, fever, swollen glands and rash. The virus also may target the brain, with potential life-threatening consequences. In these cases, West Nile Virus can cause meningitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the spinal cord and brain) or encephalitis (brain inflammation).

Whooping cough – A bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable coughing. Whooping cough is most common in children and infants, although people of any age can get it.

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