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What is Infectious Disease?

Infectious disease is a specialty that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of infections, including bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections. Infectious disease specialists are trained in the studies of immunology, or how the body fights off infections, as well as epidemiology, or how diseases spread.

Some infectious disease doctors further specialize within the field of infectious disease. For instance, pediatric infectious disease specialists treat children and teens with serious infections. Others focus specifically on patients who have HIV or AIDS, as these conditions commonly cause patients to contract unusual and severe infections.

Most common infections can be treated by a general physician without problems. A referral to an infectious disease specialist might be made in cases such as:
  • An infection that is difficult to diagnose
  • An extremely high fever
  • An infection that is not responding to treatment
  • A patient traveling to a foreign country where the risk for infection is high
  • A patient with a chronic illness or infection that requires frequent treatment, such as HIV

Infectious disease specialists often use lab work to diagnose infections. They may culture a wound or look for the presence of antibodies in the blood. Treatment may include vaccinations, antifungals, or antibiotics. Infectious disease specialists are skilled at prescribing appropriate antibiotics for specific infections and knowing when the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects for using them.