Is Dementia Contagious?

Have you ever wondered what type of diseases are contagious and which are not?

Many known infectious conditions are well documented and vaccinations for  prevention are available for many. With the addition of anti-biotics to control many bacterial infections, the danger of travelling abroad and the possibility of catching diseases like malaria, yellow fever and other third world bacterial infections have been almost completely eliminated.

But what about the dangers of spending more time indoors in close contact with people during the cold winter months which can promote transmission of various influenza outbreaks from person to person. Each annual flu season is normally associated with a major virus subtype and changes each year.

The exact mechanism behind the seasonal outbreak is unclear but some of the viruses or bacteria may linger for years or decades deep inside the human body. It has been known for more than a century that dementia can be caused by chronic bacterial infections, which may not be obvious or detectable by physical examinations or blood tests and as a result cognitive functions may be impaired for months after the apparent resolution of a systemic infection.

Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Onset is typically between the ages of 55 to …90, and at the age of 90 memory loss is expected. In the absence of alternative conditions, diagnosis is based on patient history, collateral history from relatives and clinical observations and the presence of characteristic neurological and neuropsychological features.

Care givers are more likely to get sick. A person whose spouse experienced incident dementia onset has a six time greater risk for incident dementia as a person whose spouse is dementia free. It seems that over time both spouses develop cognitive deterioration, with one being worse off than the other. The physical and mental burden of care giving and the emotional stress associated with watching a love  done struggle with dementia, shared environmental risks like similar diets, or homogamy (similar individuals are more likely to marry) are among possible reasons.

More research is needed to pinpoint the cause and find the best way of keeping one spouse from sharing the fate of the other. Studies show that husbands had a significantly higher risk of developing dementia than wives.