Infectious Diseases Distance Learning Program

MPH Infectious Diseases Distance Learning Program

Infectious diseases refer to the ability of pathogenic microorganisms (can be bacteria, fungus or viruses) to produce sickness in humans, animals and plants which may or may not be fatal. Infectious diseases have been considered equivalent to wars and famine which has intimidated the survival of the human race worldwide. Some of the infections are communicable and others are passed on by carriers like insects and animals. Some people get infected by consuming contaminated meals or get exposed to contagion from their surroundings. The common symptoms of infection are usually episodes of fever, chills, headache, body pain, cough, sneezing, sore throat, difficulty in urination etc. Some infections are cured at home while others require serious attention at hospitals and can be deadly.  Some microorganisms are good players and others are bad players for human survival the bad players are known as pathogenic organisms. Most bacterial and fungal infections are controlled by antibiotics and antifungals. Whereas, the viruses have the capacity to divide inside the living host cells. The living host can be human beings, animals, plants or bacteria. The viral infections are controlled by injecting vaccines. A few examples of viral infections are measles, chickenpox, AIDS (HIV), COVID-19. General hygiene practices like regular and comprehensive cleaning of hands keep the infections afar. Let’s look at the history and get to know the story of the dawn of infectious diseases.

History

It all started in 1350 BC when an Egyptian ruler Amenhotep moaned the death of his community by plague and dust after the Mayor of Mediggo intimated about the same and since then, the exhaustive list of pandemics and epidemics has been presented by many researchers. We will list down the infectious diseases which have killed millions of people in history. The Roman Empire was affected by an unknown disease in the year 165-180,  killing 5-10 million of the population. The European and Western Asian countries were affected by bubonic plague in the year 541-549,  killing 15-100 million of the population. In Japan, smallpox killed 2 million of the population in the year 735-737. The 75-200 million population of Eurasia and North Africa was affected by bubonic plague in the year 1346-1353. In the year 1519-1520, 5-8 million Mexican population was killed by smallpox. In the year 1545-1548, 5-15 million Mexican population was killed for unknown reasons. Most likely, it was caused by Salmonella enterica. In the year 1629-1631, one million Italian population was killed due to the bubonic plague. In the year 1918 to 1920, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 killed 17-100 million population across the world. In the years 1918-1922, 2-3 million Russian population was killed due to typhus fever.   Again in the year 1957-58, another variant of the Influenza virus i.e. the H2N2 strain killed approximately 1-4 million people across the world. Yet again, another variant of the Influenza virus namely H3N3, from the year 1968 to 1970 killed 1-4 million people across the world. In the 1980s human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) came into the limelight infecting people in clusters and by the year 2020, it has killed 36.3 million people worldwide.  Most recently (2019-present), the most prevalent SARS-COV-2 has jolted the whole world alarmingly killing 6.1- 24.4 million  people worldwide.

The first line of defence against infectious agents lies in the body’s own immune system that works against the invader following various mechanisms. In ancient times, the human race was unprotected, weak and powerless against unusual epidemics until the germ theory came into existence. It was because of the germ theory that the role of microorganisms/pathogens came into the limelight which led to the evolution of vaccines and antimicrobials. Antimicrobials have been used to treat infectious diseases for many years. The role of antimicrobials has been exemplary in saving the life of billions by curbing infectious diseases and related mortality. Though antimicrobials are considered to be modern-day medicine, surprisingly the research exposed the presence of very small amounts of tetracycline in the human skeletal debris of Nubians of the Sudan region which have been there since 350-550 CE. Initially, the serum from immunized animals was given to treat infections until the development of Penicillin by Dr Alexander Flaming. It brought a paradigm shift to the history of medicine and from then various antimicrobial proteins have been purified and commercialized at a larger scale and the use of serum therapy was stopped. In addition to benefits, medical science is dealing with several challenges in terms of treating infectious diseases and inviting pathogenic microorganisms to emerge and acclimatize to new hosts and new environments and disseminate between hosts.

Public Health Education 

Public health Education is a very important field that educates a large population to stay healthy and it is known to increase the lifespan of the human population through the intervention of public health policies. It is very important to understand and create awareness among the general population about public health and how it is different from clinical medicine and who operates it and how it is done?! The World Health Organization (WHO) formally introduced “Health” as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being rather than a mere absence of disease whereas “Public Health ” is a science where measures are taken to prevent the diseases and thus increases life longevity. The measures are taken by the coordinated actions of the society. 

Let’s understand the difference between clinical medicine and public health with an example, Consider a person met with a road accident and broke his arm, the clinician’s duty would be centred around the individual’s well being whereas the public health department will look to the entire matter of the accident. Let’s understand from the diagram.

Public Health Education

Whereas, the typical layout of public health follows the following strategy:

  1. What was the reason for the accident?
  2. Was the person having a normal vision?
  3. Was he driving rash?
  4. Was he drunk or under the impact of drugs?
  5. Was he carrying a valid driving license and insurance papers for the car?
  6. Is he having the kind of social circle which will help him avoid the recurrence of the mishap in future?
  7. What was the status of the road on which he was driving?
  8. Was he driving the well-tuned car?
  9. If the car was not well-maintained, then what was the reason behind it? What is his financial cadre? Is he leading a quality life, if not then why? Is his employer not paying him well? Has he been offered good health services by the employer? Is he having a health insurance policy?

So, the above plan suggests that public health involves several determinants like lifestyle, behaviour, physical, social and economic stature for the welfare of the society whereas clinicians are only focused on the individual’s well-being. 

Who is responsible for maintaining Public Health?

It requires the combined effort of the health department, stakeholders, government agencies, NGOs, International Organisations and of course the community itself. The services are usually provided in three areas 

Who is responsible for maintaining Public Health?

  1. Protection – It involves parameters like control of infectious diseases, management of havoc created in the environment, making sure that the workplace provides a healthy environment, equipping workplaces so that they can handle medical emergencies
  2. Prevention – It involves measures like timely screening of the disease and vaccinating the mass. 
  3. Promotion – It promotes individuals to adopt healthy behaviours. It focuses on developing  better social determinants

Generally, the word “public health” refers to the arrangements made by the Government to avert the spread of diseases. But in reality, the common man hardly knows about the existence of any such organisation called public health. Also, very little awareness is provided to the public by the historical conventions of medicine about health education. As a matter of fact, the Oxford Encyclopedia has quoted the word “education” only one time in the article written on public health. This reveals that the striving actions of public health authorities are unrecognized. This negligence has unveiled the destruction caused by COVID. If the population was prepared previously with health education to combat the viral infections the mortality would have been lesser.

So, we need more and more infectious disease specialists to curb the pandemics in future!

As the situation of COVID-19 has jolted the lives of millions of people, there is a sudden spike in the demand for infectious disease (ID) specialists. COVID-19 infection has not only chosen the population of developing countries but has hit all the developed countries too. How much ever advanced the medical care facilities were but the havoc created by COVID-19 has failed everything. Though there is a large population who is still clueless about the role and importance of  ID specialists.

Mph Infectious Diseases Online

James Lind Institute offers a remarkable course called “Masters of Public Health in Infectious Diseases’‘. Students with a bachelor’s degree in  Behavioral and social sciences (Sociology, Psychology, Counseling), Biomedical Sciences, Biostatistics, Chemistry, Dentistry, Oral Health, Development Studies, Environmental Health, Exercise and Sport Science, Food Science, Health Economics, Health Management, Medicine, Medical Sciences, Nursing, Nutrition, Occupational Health and Safety, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Public Health or Health Sciences, Science (All disciplines), Speech Therapy, Veterinary sciences can pursue this course. In this era, where diseases are reemerging, microbes are mutating, evolving and adapting to wider ecological niches, it becomes very important to catch hold of the situation that not only prevents COVID-19 in future but all other threatening infectious diseases too. To overcome the related challenges, the medical workforce from all parts of the world has to come together and take it further. There is an enormous requirement for infectious disease professionals across the world. The professionals should be trained on a regular basis on recent research and develop the best protocols to handle emerging infectious diseases. 

Students at James Lind Institute will gain skills so that they are able to offer solutions and fill the gaps in public health and clinical research. It offers lucrative career options. The program will focus on delivering thorough knowledge on communicable diseases, microbiology principles, public health, nosocomial infections, epidemiology, biostatistics, nutrition, immunology, research methodology, surveillance and drug development. The program would reinforce the required skills so the students are able to make policies and design a line of suitable treatment, surveillance and control.  

The course is offered through distance learning which has its own perks. The education is imparted through a mode where the student and the tutor are not connected physically. They can be at different geographical locations. They can be very near or can be miles apart. Technology has enabled this powerful system to thrive and prosper. Distance education depends on electronic gadgets or print material for a pedagogic lecture. Distance education or e-learning has been popularised more recently during the COVID pandemic because this was the only option left to impart knowledge. Whereas, distance education has been in place globally since 1960. The well established University of South Africa and Indra Gandhi Open University, India have been offering multiple distance learning courses for the past 20 years. The research witnessed a better performance by the students who took the distance mode of education. It broadens access to knowledge and is very beneficial for students who live in remote areas. Students from medical, allied health science, social science and life science can pursue public health education courses along with their regular studies. It will definitely give them an edge over other professionals. The successful completion of the program would allow students to explore careers in the fields of academics & training, community education, consulting, patient advocacy, policy development, hospital infection control, and NGO operations. They can work as Community health educators, directors of health promotion, Clinical research specialists, Grant writers, Education outreach liaisons, Public health inspectors,  Patient care coordinators etc. It opens up a lot of employment doors for public health educators