The National Academies

The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

New infectious diseases are emerging and old ones are appearing in new places around the globe. What’s behind this trend? And to what extent has human behavior amplified the problem? The National Academies, advisers to the nation in science, engineering, and medicine, provide the information you need to understand this complex topic.

Infection

Microbes are all around us. Most don’t do any harm, and many are beneficial, but what about the few that cause infection? Learn the basics.

Threats

Certain aspects of disease are a particular threat to us today. What are some of the things we're most concerned about in the United States?

Challenges

National borders do little to block the path of infectious disease. Learn how our modern way of life contributes to the emergence and spread of diseases.

Prevention

What do we need to do—as individuals and as a society—to stave off the threat of emerging infectious disease?

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What do you know about infectious disease?

What fraction of all deaths worldwide are caused by infectious disease?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    About one quarter of all deaths worldwide are caused by infectious disease. More than two-thirds of the deaths in children under the age of five are caused by infectious disease.

  • Correct!

    About one quarter of all deaths worldwide are caused by infectious disease. More than two-thirds of the deaths in children under the age of five are caused by infectious disease.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    About one quarter of all deaths worldwide are caused by infectious disease. More than two-thirds of the deaths in children under the age of five are caused by infectious disease.

Infectious Disease Defined

Nerve Toxin

Also called neurotoxins, these refer to poisonous substances that cause damage to cells in the nervous system.

View our full glossary

Disease Watchlist

Polio

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system. The virus can be spread by direct person-to-person contact, contact with infected mucus or phlegm from the nose or mouth, or contact with infected feces. 

Learn More