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is it possible to have an infection but a normal white blood cell count?

Hello and Good Evening Everyone,

              I am wondering if it is possible to have an infection but a normal white blood cell count.   Throughout the years, I have always thought that high white blood cell count and bodily infection pretty much go hand in hand or correlated.  

              Any shared input to this question will be greatly appreciated.

              Thank you.

              George
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GMartin
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GMartin
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3 Solutions
 
phoffricCommented:
If the person's immune system is not working that well, then the white blood count might be unfortunately normal.

I once felt mildly tired for a couple of months, so I went to a doctor, who after tests, said nothing was wrong with me. I ignored my tiredness for 6 months since there was nothing wrong with me; but was tired of being tired so I went back to the same doctor. This time the tests showed that I had a mild infection. I took the antibiotics, and on my next visit, I told the doctor that I felt great. He beamed with pride for having the knowledge to prescribe antibiotics for me. I just wished he had given them to me 6 months earlier.
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
Your question is probably too generic.  For a usable answer for a specific person, details are important.  'High' compared to what or whom?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_blood_count

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leukocytes
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GMartinAuthor Commented:
Hello and Good Afternoon

              I have a friend who went to the ER the other day for abdominal pain.  The doctor said he was going to treat her as if she has an infection even though her white blood cell count was normal.  I am assuming there is a range which is used by doctors to determine if a particular value is low or high.  

               On a side note,  what role does white blood cells play in the body's natural defenses against infection?  For instance, are antibodies produced by white blood cells to help fight off any agent like a virus or bacteria which is seen as foreign by the body?  

               Thanks

               George
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
George, did you read the articles from Wikipedia yet?  It's not quite that simple.  And there can be other reasons for suspecting an infection.  Like I said above, details are important.  No generic answer here or on Wikipedia is going to be better than a specific diagnosis from the doctor.
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tliottaCommented:
The direct answer is "Yes." A significant rise in white blood cell count from an infection is only going to happen after the immune system determines that an infection is happening. Until some result of an infection triggers that response, the white blood cell count won't show a difference.

First, an infectious agent might not be seen as being foreign to the body. If it's not seen as being different, it won't cause a reaction.

And second, the definition of "infection" doesn't necessarily require significant, widespread cell death. Numerous parasites can "infect" while the body continues essentially normally. Every one of us lives in that condition our entire lives. Without something like widespread, abnormal cell death, there won't be a trigger for something like a large increase in white blood cells for cleanup.

There can be many other factors, but it can get technical and very precise real fast. Detailed reading is the best course if a detailed answer is needed.

Tom
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GMartinAuthor Commented:
Hello and Good Evening Everyone,

          After reading and re-reading the information contained within the links in conjunction with the personal thoughts shared, I now have a clearer picture of the behind the scenes biological events which take place when an individual is infected or exposed to an infectious agent.  It is obvious to me the reaction which occurs when an individual has an infection is relative to the overall functionality of the immunological system.  

             In closing, thanks so much everybody for the shared links and informative insights.  All of the information provided certainly did answer my question while broadening my understanding of the human immune system.

             Thanks again.

             George
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tliottaCommented:
It's a bit more complicated. E.g., bacterial infections can have a kind of chemical "communications network" that they share within their kind. Individuals can go about their individual business without any problem for a long time, maybe always for any isolated one.

But there apparently is often a kind of 'tipping point' related to density of them within a host. When that point is crossed, they all seem to know and their behavior changes. They begin a more intense attempt at taking over the entire host, and the 'infection' flares in a major way. Lots of research going into cracking that code whatever it is.

See the How bacteria "talk" TED talk for a basic intro. Interesting times in what is being learned.

Tom
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