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There can be up 200,000 bacteria per square metre on the floor waiting to hitch a ride [scary huh]

What are germs?

Germs are tiny animals which are so small they cannot be seen without the help of a special instrument called a microscope. The microscope allows the germs to be seen by making them look a lot bigger. Many of these germs will cause disease in humans and other animals.

There are two main types of germs which can cause disease in humans and animals. These are bacteria and viruses. Bacteria are larger than viruses.

All animals need warmth, moisture and food in order to live. Germs are no different. They can get all of these things from many places. For example, faeces (guna, shit), rubbish, food scraps and even from our bodies.

There are many germs inside the human body which may not cause disease. There are even some germs which help parts of the body to work properly. The gut, for example, cannot digest food properly without the help of certain ‘good’ bacteria.

There are other germs in the environment which do good things, for example, the Lactobacillus germ which turns milk into yoghurt, or the many types of germs which help break down vegetable matter into compost.

Germs and Disease

There are, however, some germs which can make people sick if they enter their bodies, for example, hepatitis A and Salmonella germs.

Other germs which usually stay in certain parts of the body where they do not cause disease, will make a person sick if they find their way to another part of the body. For example, Escherichia coli (which is also sometimes known as E. coli) lives in the gut and helps digest food. However, if it gets outside the gut, E. coli can cause sickness such as bladder infection.

Food, water or air can be made dangerous to humans and other animals by things which are living in it or mixed into it. When this happens, it is said to be contaminated or polluted. Food and water can be contaminated by disease-causing germs.

Germs can get into the body through the mouth, nose, breaks in the skin, eyes and genitals (privates). Once disease-causing germs are inside the body they can stop it from working properly. They may breed very quickly and in a very short time a small number of germs can become millions.

Germs can cause disease by upsetting the way the body works. They do this when they:produce toxins (poisons)increase their number greatly by breeding and they can stop parts of the body from working properly, or attack and damage a particular part of the body. Sometimes the diseases caused by germs are not serious and will go away after a day or so. At other times, the disease may be very serious and may even cause the person to die. In some cases diseases caused by germs have to be treated with medicines such as tablets, injections or syrups. The medicines stop the disease by killing the germs.

Diseases caused by bacteria germs are called bacterial diseases, and those caused by virus germs are called viral diseases.

Source: Australian Government Department of Health

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