Medical experts who specialize in the medical treatment of infectious disease are infectious disease specialists. Generally, infections are initially diagnosed by primary care physicians or internal medicine specialists. For example, an "uncomplicated" pneumonia will generally be treated by the internist or the pulmonologist (lung physician).The work of the infectious disease expert therefore entails working with both patients and general practitioners, as well as laboratory scientists and immunologists.
When a fever raises the suspicion of infection, when an infection is potentially serious, or when problems occur with treatment, it may be necessary to consult an infectious diseases specialist. ID specialists can provide special insight into tests that will be helpful in diagnosing and understanding the infection and preventing recurrent infections. They can often help determine what treatment is needed and whether antibiotics are called for. Patients may not require any treatment, but if they do, they may confer with their personal physician about which diagnostic testing and forms of treatment are best suited. If someone is hospitalized for an infection or acquires an infection while hospitalized, ID specialists will follow and help direct hospital care. In some cases, they may continue to follow after discharge.
An infectious disease (ID) specialist is a doctor of internal medicine (or, in some cases, pediatrics) who is qualified as an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. After seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training, ID specialists complete two to three years of additional training in infectious diseases. That is, 4 years of medical school, 3 years training as a doctor of internal medicine, and 2-3 years specialized training in infectious diseases.
ID specialists have expertise in infections of the sinuses, heart, brain, lungs, urinary tract, bowel, bones and pelvic organs. Their extensive training focuses on all kinds of infections, including those caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Many ID physicians specialize in treating patients with infections due to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS. Along with their specialized knowledge comes a particular insight into the use of antibiotics and their potential adverse effects. ID specialists also have additional training in immunology (how the body fights infection), epidemiology (how infections spread) and infection control.
An infectious disease is a clinically evident disease that damages or injures the host that results from the presence of one or more pathogenic microbial agents, including viruses, bacteris, fungi, protozoa, multicellular parasites, and aberrant proteins known as prions. These pathogens can cause diseases in both animals and plants. Transmission of an infectious disease may occur through several pathways; including through contact with infected individuals, by water, food, airborne inhalation, or through vector-borne spread.
The services of the infectious disease team are called for when:
- The disease has not been definitively diagnosed after an initial workup
- The patient is immunocompromised (for example, in AIDS or after chemotherapy);
- The infectious agent is of an uncommon nature (e.g. tropical diseases);
- The disease has not responded to first line antibiotics;
- The disease might be dangerous to other patients, and the patient might have to be isolated.
Medical Opinions Associates has Board-certified physician experts in Infectious Disease who review medical records, render expert opinions, and provide on-going litigation support in medical malpractice cases. Fro example, one of our medical experts is Board-certified in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease and practices in a large California Medical Center. He is also the Medical Director of an Early Intervention Program for HIV. Another MOA Infectious Disease medical expert is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Infectious Disease Division, Department of Medicine, at the UCLA School of Medicine. He also served in the Viral Disease Division of the Centers for Disease Control with responsibilities including surveillance for Guillain-Barre syndrome, poliomyelitis, and Reye Syndrome, having served in internship and residency at Emory University in Georgia. A third ID expert is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine in a Florida University and former Chief, Infectious Disease Section, at a Veterans Administration Medical Center in Florida.