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: 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.

Which of the following is NOT a type of infectious agent?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    White blood cells are not a type of infectious agent. Part of the immune system, white blood cells fight infection rather than cause it. 

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    White blood cells are not a type of infectious agent. Part of the immune system, white blood cells fight infection rather than cause it. 

  • Correct!

    White blood cells are not a type of infectious agent. Part of the immune system, white blood cells fight infection rather than cause it. 

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    White blood cells are not a type of infectious agent. Part of the immune system, white blood cells fight infection rather than cause it. 

True or False: Major pharmaceutical companies have great interest in dedicating resources to the antibiotics market because these short-course drugs are more profitable than drugs that treat chronic conditions and lifestyle ailments, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Drugs that treat chronic conditions and lifestyle ailments are more profitable. Modern medicine needs new kinds of antibiotics to treat drug-resistant infections, but antibiotic research and development are expensive, risky, and time-consuming.

  • Correct!

    Drugs that treat chronic conditions and lifestyle ailments are more profitable. Modern medicine needs new kinds of antibiotics to treat drug-resistant infections, but antibiotic research and development are expensive, risky, and time-consuming.

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.

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.

True or False: Scientists believe that hot weather may speed up both the breeding cycle of mosquitoes and replication of the virus in insects’ guts.

  • Correct!

    Scientists believe that hot weather may speed up both the breeding cycle of mosquitoes and replication of the virus in insects’ guts.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Scientists believe that hot weather may speed up both the breeding cycle of mosquitoes and replication of the virus in insects’ guts.

About how much of its fish and seafood does the United States import?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The United States imports more than 80 percent of its fish and seafood. About 20 percent of its fresh vegetables and 50 percent of its fresh fruits are imported. As wealthy nations demand such foods year-round, the increasing reliance on producers abroad means that food may be contaminated during harvesting, storage, processing, and transport—long before it reaches overseas markets.    

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The United States imports more than 80 percent of its fish and seafood. About 20 percent of its fresh vegetables and 50 percent of its fresh fruits are imported. As wealthy nations demand such foods year-round, the increasing reliance on producers abroad means that food may be contaminated during harvesting, storage, processing, and transport—long before it reaches overseas markets.    

  • Correct!

    The United States imports more than 80 percent of its fish and seafood. About 20 percent of its fresh vegetables and 50 percent of its fresh fruits are imported. As wealthy nations demand such foods year-round, the increasing reliance on producers abroad means that food may be contaminated during harvesting, storage, processing, and transport—long before it reaches overseas markets.    

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.

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Disease Watchlist

Infectious Disease Defined

Biological Agent (Terrorism)

A bacterium, virus, or other biological toxin used in bioterrorism or biological warfare.

View our full glossary