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: 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.

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: 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.

Which deadly pathogen cannot be found naturally in the wild:

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Smallpox cannot be found naturally in the wild. Smallpox was officially declared eradicated from the globe in 1980, after an 11-year WHO vaccination campaign—the first human disease to be eliminated as a naturally spread contagion. Today, the virus remains only in laboratory stockpiles.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Smallpox cannot be found naturally in the wild. Smallpox was officially declared eradicated from the globe in 1980, after an 11-year WHO vaccination campaign—the first human disease to be eliminated as a naturally spread contagion. Today, the virus remains only in laboratory stockpiles.

  • Correct!

    Smallpox cannot be found naturally in the wild. Smallpox was officially declared eradicated from the globe in 1980, after an 11-year WHO vaccination campaign—the first human disease to be eliminated as a naturally spread contagion. Today, the virus remains only in laboratory stockpiles.

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 not a viral disease:

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Trichinosis is not a viral disease. It is caused by a helminth (parasitic worm) found in undercooked meat, not by a virus. 

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Trichinosis is not a viral disease. It is caused by a helminth (parasitic worm) found in undercooked meat, not by a virus.   

  • Correct!

    Trichinosis is not a viral disease. It is caused by a helminth (parasitic worm) found in undercooked meat, not by a virus.  

Which of the following diseases kills more children worldwide than any other infectious disease?

  • Correct!

    Lower respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) kill more children worldwide than any other infectious disease. Together these diseases are the five leading causes of infectious disease worldwide, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all deaths.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Lower respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) kill more children worldwide than any other infectious disease. Together these diseases are the five leading causes of infectious disease worldwide, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all deaths.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Lower respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) kill more children worldwide than any other infectious disease. Together these diseases are the five leading causes of infectious disease worldwide, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all deaths.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Lower respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) kill more children worldwide than any other infectious disease. Together these diseases are the five leading causes of infectious disease worldwide, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all deaths.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Lower respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) kill more children worldwide than any other infectious disease. Together these diseases are the five leading causes of infectious disease worldwide, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all deaths.

The 1918 influenza pandemic (the so-called “Spanish” flu) is estimated to have killed how many people worldwide?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The 1918 influenza pandemic is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. Many of those deaths were due to the effects of pneumococcal pneumonia, a secondary complication of flu for which no antibiotics existed in 1918.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The 1918 influenza pandemic is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. Many of those deaths were due to the effects of pneumococcal pneumonia, a secondary complication of flu for which no antibiotics existed in 1918.

  • Correct!

    The 1918 influenza pandemic is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. Many of those deaths were due to the effects of pneumococcal pneumonia, a secondary complication of flu for which no antibiotics existed in 1918.

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

Latent Infection

An infection that is currently not producing or showing any symptoms but has the potential of being reactivated and then manifesting symptoms.

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