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?

Explore Other Topics

What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that was used in some vaccines and other products, has been shown to present a risk to human health.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.

  • Correct!

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.

Infectious Disease Defined

White Blood Cell

A special type of cell that works as part of the immune system to defend the body against disease and infection.

View our full glossary

Disease Watchlist

Meningitis

Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges, the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by either a virus or bacteria, and treatment differs depending on the cause. 

Learn More