Our bodies are pretty amazing. Day after day, they work hard digesting food, pumping blood and oxygen, sending signals from our brains and much more. But there is a group of tiny invaders that can make our bodies sick; they are called germs. Some people may think that germs are bugs or cooties or other gross stuff. Actually, germs are tiny organisms, or living things, that can cause disease. Germs are so small and sneaky that they creep into our bodies without being noticed. In fact, germs are so tiny that you need to use a microscope to see them. When they get in our bodies, we don't know what hit us until we have symptoms that say we've been attacked!
Germs have favorite places to live, preferred ways to travel, and if they are harmful, their own unique ways of causing disease. Germs can live in or on dirt, water, countertops, our skin, our intestines, and in many other places around us. Some germs can survive on their own while others prefer living in people or animals. Some germs live only in hot areas of the world while others live only in cold areas. When germs find a place that is good for them, they multiply and set up a home for themselves.
The three major types of germs are: bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They can invade plants, animals, and people, and sometimes their presence makes us sick.
Bacteria are tiny, one-celled creatures that get nutrients from their environments in order to live. In some cases, that environment is a human body. Bacteria can reproduce outside of the body or within the body as they cause infections. Some infections that bacteria can cause include ear infections, sore throats, cavities, and pneumonia. But not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria are good for our bodies and help keep things in balance. Good bacteria live in our intestines and help us use the nutrients in the food we eat and make waste from what's left over. We couldn't make the most of a healthy meal without these important helper germs. Some bacteria are also used by scientists in labs to produce medicines and vaccines.
Viruses need to be inside living cells to grow and reproduce. Most viruses can't survive very long if they're not inside a living thing like a plant, animal, or person. Whatever a virus lives in is called its host. When viruses get inside people's bodies, they can spread and make people sick. Viruses cause chickenpox, measles, flu, and many other diseases. Because some viruses can live for a short time on something like a doorknob or countertop, be sure to wash your hands regularly.
Fungi are multi-celled plant-like organisms. Unlike other plants, fungi cannot make their own food from soil, water, and air. Instead, fungi get their nutrition from plants, people, and animals. They love to live in damp, warm places, and many fungi are not dangerous in healthy people. An example of something caused by fungi is athlete's foot, that itchy rash that teens and adults sometimes get between their toes.
Germs spread in different ways. To catch an infectious disease, a person first needs to be exposed to a harmful germ by touching, eating or drinking, breathing, sexual contact, needles, blood transfusions, or getting bitten. Adopting healthy habits are the best and easiest way to prevent the spread of germs every day.
In summary, germs are tiny living organisms that can cause diseases are have other harmful effects on living things. The three types of germs include bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
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