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

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Disease Threats

Our “war” on infectious microbes has restricted the spread of several pathogens and drastically reduced the burden of human disease. But we are a long way from conquering infectious diseases. They account for about a quarter of deaths worldwide and in 2008 caused more than two-thirds of the estimated 8.8 million deaths in children under the age of five. What are some of the most significant microbial threats we face?

Animal Carriers

Of the more than 1,700 known viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that infect people, more than half have come from animals.

What’s the connection between the common cold and horses? Between the measles and cows? Find out the part animals play in the story of infectious disease.

More about animal carriers

Foodborne Pathogens

Each year, about 1 in 4 Americans becomes infected by something they eat.

E. coli  in spinach. Salmonella in peanut products. Norovirus on cruise ships. Learn more about the microbes behind foodborne illness—and how you can protect yourself.

More about foodborne pathogens

Global Killers

Someone in the world is newly infected with the tuberculosis bacterium every second.

Learn about the deadly role lower respiratory tract infections, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria play in the world—particularly in developing nations.

More about global killers


Each year in the United States about 36,000 people die from flu-related complications.

We tend to toss around the term “flu” lightly but real influenza is serious and may be the illness public health officials fear most. Find out what influenza really is, why it spreads so quickly, and how the seasonal flu differs from a pandemic.

More about influenza

Antibiotic Resistance

Almost 70% of all the antibiotics produced in the United States are added to animal feeds—not to fend off disease but to boost growth.

Antibiotics, medicines developed to kill harmful bacteria, have saved countless lives since the discovery of the first antibiotic—penicillin—in 1927. But misuse and overuse of these medicines is reducing their effectiveness. Find out why.

More about antibiotic resistance

Chronic Illness & Cancer

Chronic diseases account for 70% of all deaths in the United States.

The discovery that certain cancers and chronic illnesses are caused by infectious agents is leading researchers to question whether other long-term illnesses may also be caused by infection—and curable with antibiotics. Learn more about the current thinking.

More about chronic illness & cancer

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Disease Watchlist

What do you know about infectious disease?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about what percentage of cervical cancer cases?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes more than 90% of cervical cancer cases.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes more than 90% of cervical cancer cases.

  • Correct!

    The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes more than 90% of cervical cancer cases.

Infectious Disease Defined

Urogenital Disease

Disease of the organs that function in excretion of fluids and reproduction.

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National Academies Press

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