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Community-acquired diseases, the infections you can catch from your neighbors, are a growing health problem as the world gets more and more crowded. Here are eight diseases that can strike where they are least expected.

As hard as it may be to believe, you can "catch" one form of cancer from your neighbors. Even worse, nearby buildings can harbor deadly infections for which there are no effective treatments, and diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations can still be passed along if people aren't vaccinated. Let's take a look at 10 community-acquired infections that may be lurking in your neighborhood.

The Cancer You Can Catch From Your Neighbors

Scientists have found an important role for immune-related factors in the causation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Studies of over 100,000 people in the United States and in Denmark have found that the risk of CLL rises from 11 to 26 percent after exposure to strep throat, bacterial pneumonia, influenza, or herpes in the previous five years. The mutation that causes this form of leukemia arises in white blood cells after they are activated by certain infections. Coming down with one of these infections does not mean that you will develop leukemia for sure, but it does mean you are at significantly greater risk.

Legions of Legionella Sufferers

Since the summer of 2015, infections with the sometimes deadly and often debilitating bacteria infection Legionella have been on the increase across the United States. There were 140 reported cases in just one burrough of New York City, the Bronx. There were 54 cases and 12 deaths at an Illinois nursing home, and 80 cases in a prison in Illinois. The infection causes symptoms that range from mild, flu-like infections to multiple organ failure.
 
Legionellosis is caused by bacteria that can lurk in the ventilation system of one building and land on another building. It can also survive in the sediment in water pipes, which allows it to persist in hospitals. Legionellosis causes up to 180,000 cases of atypical pneumonia annually, and is one of the most common reasons patients are admitted to intensive care units (ICU). Surviving this infection is tightly linked to age. Fewer than one person in one million under the age of 35 who gets the disease dies. Up to 50 percent of people who get the infection in nursing homes die.

Influenza

Flu is a world-wide problem. The influenza virus is temperature-sensitive. It survives in cool but hot or cold air. In climates where there are four seasons, the virus goes around during the transition from fall to winter and during the transition from winter to spring. In cooler, mountainous, tropical areas, such as Ethiopia or Costa Rica, flu can be transmitted all year round.

Up to 20 percent of people in flu-prone areas come down with the disease every year. However, up to 30 percent of people who are not sick enough to show symptoms are sick enough to spread the disease. Sneezing can spread the virus on tiny droplets of phlegm and saliva up to 6 feet (2 meters) away, and the virus can survive on some surfaces up to 24 hours. If you don't want to get your flu shots, you must be very careful about washing hands and cleaning surfaces throughout the whole flu season.

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  • Photo courtesy of saxbaldphotography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxbaldphotography/15861416154
  • Photo courtesy of mikebabz: www.flickr.com/photos/mikebabz/5411624487/

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