Getting Sick from Germs: A Hitchhikers Guide
“Hi I'm Bongani Bacteria, and I'm a germ – I’m not particularly popular amongst your crowd, humans I mean. But I'm not a bad guy; I'm just trying to make it out there in the world and support my ever-growing family. I live in your gut, also known as your tummy and I help you to absorb and digest your food. In return, we get all the food we could hope for because our nutrients comes from your gut too – its kind of like living off the environment but in your digestive system.
There are loads of germs out there that are pretty bad, and they give us a pretty bad rap. Germs like the Virus family can’t live outside of living cells – they can generally only live inside a plant, animal or human. They call their home a host, and if they make your body their host, you can get pretty sick. The Viruses family can cause chickenpox, measles and flu when they get into your body.
The Fungi family cannot make their food. Instead, they get their nutrition from plants, people, and animals. They live in damp, warm places, they can make your skin their home, they are not dangerous in healthy people, but they can make you uncomfortable, so its best to keep them at bay. Keep your skin clean and dry to avoid letting fungi make a home on your body.
The Protozoa family are related to the Bacteria family, but most of them live in water. This is a strange germ, especially when it comes to their diet. Sometimes they eat us bacteria, and they even eat the waste of other organisms. Protozoa can either be good or bad, and because they often live in water, it's especially vital that you have clean water for drinking and washing your hands.
If you are wondering how we get around – I will let you in on a little secret. Most of the germs I know hitchhike from one place to another. They move from surfaces like phones, remotes and keyboards to hands and then into the human body when you touch your eyes, nose and mouth. They can even travel through your drinking water.
Germs can also take express transportation on sneezes and in the air. Even the Virus family, who don't like to be outside, can travel for a short time on a doorknob or countertop. To help prevent germs from hitching a ride onto your body, you should keep your hands clean by frequently washing your hands with soap or a hand wash and water.
Anyway, I should get back to work, helping to digest this food. Thanks for taking the time to hear what I have to say. I hope you don't have too many bad encounters with germs and remember, we are not all bad. Just keep up with proper handwashing, and you can prevent us from making you sick.”