The National Academies

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

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Antibiotics work by introducing an agent that resembles a disease-causing microbe, thus stimulating the body's immune system to recognize it as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that it can more easily identify and destroy any similar, disease-causing microbes that it later encounters.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The above describes how vaccines work. Antibiotics work by either killing bacteria or stopping them from reproducing, allowing the body's natural defenses to eliminate the pathogens.

  • Correct!

    The above describes how vaccines work. Antibiotics work by either killing bacteria or stopping them from reproducing, allowing the body's natural defenses to eliminate the pathogens.

True or False: Most infectious diseases are not impacted by changes in the environment.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Most infectious diseases are impacted by changes in the environment. Malaria, dengue, and viral encephalitis infections, for example, are highly sensitive to environmental changes.

  • Correct!

    Most infectious diseases are impacted by changes in the environment. Malaria, dengue, and viral encephalitis infections, for example, are highly sensitive to environmental changes.

Which of the following is needed to help improve the public health situation in developing countries?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All of the above are urgently needed in developing nations. A major barrier to achieving these improvements is the underlying weakness of health systems in resource-poor countries, including a shortage of health workers and a lack of disease surveillance programs.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All of the above are urgently needed in developing nations. A major barrier to achieving these improvements is the underlying weakness of health systems in resource-poor countries, including a shortage of health workers and a lack of disease surveillance programs.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    All of the above are urgently needed in developing nations. A major barrier to achieving these improvements is the underlying weakness of health systems in resource-poor countries, including a shortage of health workers and a lack of disease surveillance programs.

  • Correct!

    All of the above are urgently needed in developing nations. A major barrier to achieving these improvements is the underlying weakness of health systems in resource-poor countries, including a shortage of health workers and a lack of disease surveillance programs.

True or False: If you have a cold or the flu, taking antibiotics will help treat the infection.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viral infections such as influenza and the common cold. In fact, inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. 

  • Correct!

    Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viral infections such as influenza and the common cold. In fact, inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. 

True or False: Not all microbes are harmful to humans.

  • Correct!

    Not all microbes are harmful to humans. In fact, many of them protect us, helping our bodies function properly and competing with harmful organisms in an eternal contest for habitable space in or on our bodies. Although the microorganisms that cause disease often receive more attention, most microorganisms do not cause illness.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Not all microbes are harmful to humans. In fact, many of them protect us, helping our bodies function properly and competing with harmful organisms in an eternal contest for habitable space in or on our bodies. Although the microorganisms that cause disease often receive more attention, most microorganisms do not cause illness.

About how many airline passengers cross international borders daily?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    An estimated 1.8 million airline passengers cross international borders daily, creating routes by which human infections can radiate around the world within hours.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    An estimated 1.8 million airline passengers cross international borders daily, creating routes by which human infections can radiate around the world within hours.

  • Correct!

    An estimated 1.8 million airline passengers cross international borders daily, creating routes by which human infections can radiate around the world within hours.

About what percentage of the antibiotics produced in the United States is added to animal feeds to promote growth?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Almost 70% of all the antibiotics produced in the United States is added to animal feeds—not to fend off disease but to boost growth. These non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics are a perfect way to cultivate microbes that are resistant to antibiotics.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Almost 70% of all the antibiotics produced in the United States is added to animal feeds—not to fend off disease but to boost growth. These non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics are a perfect way to cultivate microbes that are resistant to antibiotics.

  • Correct!

    Almost 70% of all the antibiotics produced in the United States is added to animal feeds—not to fend off disease but to boost growth. These non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics are a perfect way to cultivate microbes that are resistant to antibiotics.

True or False: Growing evidence suggests that infections are behind many chronic diseases once thought to be caused by genetic, environmental, or lifestyle factors.

  • Correct!
    Growing evidence does suggest that infections are behind many chronic diseases once thought to be caused by genetic, environmental, or lifestyle factors, including peptic ulcers and cervical, liver, and gastric cancers.
  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Growing evidence does suggest that infections are behind many chronic diseases once thought to be caused by genetic, environmental, or lifestyle factors, including peptic ulcers and cervical, liver, and gastric cancers.

Which reproduce the fastest:

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Viruses reproduce the fastest. Humans produce a new generation every 20 years or so; bacteria do it every 20 to 30 minutes, and viruses even faster.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Viruses reproduce the fastest. Humans produce a new generation every 20 years or so; bacteria do it every 20 to 30 minutes, and viruses even faster.

  • Correct!

    Viruses reproduce the fastest. Humans produce a new generation every 20 years or so; bacteria do it every 20 to 30 minutes, and viruses even faster.

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Infectious Disease Defined

Sperm Cell

The male gamete, or sex cell, which carries the hereditary material of the male parent and unites with the female egg cell during sexual reproduction.

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