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

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

How Infection Works

Types of Microbes

The microorganisms, or microbes, that can cause disease come in different forms. Viruses and bacteria are probably the most familiar because we hear so much about them. But fungi, protozoa, and helminths are also big players in the story of infectious disease. Learn more about each of these five main categories, as well as a recently discovered one: prions.

Viruses

Viruses

Viruses are unable to reproduce until they invade and commandeer living cells.

Influenza, measles, and the common cold are just some of the diseases caused by viruses. What is a virus and how is it different from other microbes?

More about viruses

Bacteria

Bacteria

Bacteria come in three shapes: spherical, rodlike, and curved.

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that have been around for billions of years. Discover their important characteristics.

More about bacteria

Other Microbes

Other Microbes

Bread mold and hookworm, both infectious agents, are neither bacteria nor viruses.

Viruses and bacteria may be the most recognizable of the microbes that can cause infectious disease. But there are several other varieties. Learn about them here.

More about other microbes

Explore Other Topics

What do you know about infectious disease?

Public health officials can identify the outbreak of disease by monitoring certain patterns of behavior through syndromic surveillance. Which of the following is one of the signs used to identify a disease outbreak using this system?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In syndromic surveillance, all of the above are used in addition to other patterns that suggest an outbreak. Despite the emergence of this innovative surveillance method, most surveillance still depends on tracking reported infections. 

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In syndromic surveillance, all of the above are used in addition to other patterns that suggest an outbreak. Despite the emergence of this innovative surveillance method, most surveillance still depends on tracking reported infections. 

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In syndromic surveillance, all of the above are used in addition to other patterns that suggest an outbreak. Despite the emergence of this innovative surveillance method, most surveillance still depends on tracking reported infections. 

  • Correct!

    In syndromic surveillance, all of the above are used in addition to other patterns that suggest an outbreak. Despite the emergence of this innovative surveillance method, most surveillance still depends on tracking reported infections. 

Infectious Disease Defined

Antibiotics

A class of drugs used to kill or inhibit the growth of disease-causing microorganisms. Typically antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, but in some cases they are also used against other microorganisms, such as fungi and protozoa.

View our full glossary

National Academies

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