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

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Disease Watchlist

 
Anthrax

Anthrax is caused by contact with the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, and it commonly infects hoofed animals, including cows, sheep, and goats.

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Botulism

Botulism is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can enter the body through open sores, contact with soil and untreated water, and by eating canned food that has been improperly preserved.

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Campylobacteriosis

Campylobacteriosis is a diarrheal illness caused by the bacterium campylobacter, which lives harmlessly in most non-human, warm-blooded animals and grows best in the intestines of birds.

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Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a highly contagious virus characterized by itchy blister-like sores all over the body. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, part of the herpesvirus family.

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Cholera

Cholera is an infection of the intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and often results in diarrhea. About 3 to 5 million cases of cholera occur each year around the world, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths.

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Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a brain disorder caused by prions, proteins that induce abnormal folding of normal brain proteins. About 85 percent of CJD cases occur sporadically and have unknown origins.

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Dengue Fever

Typically found in tropical areas, dengue fever is caused by four closely related dengue viruses. Humans contract the illness by being bitten by an infected mosquito.

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Diarrheal Diseases

Diarrheal diseases are defined as having three or more loose stools per day. Caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, diarrheal diseases are spread through contaminated food or water, or because of poor hygiene practices.

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Dysentery

Dysentery is an inflammation of the colon characterized by frequent, watery stools, often tinged with blood and mucus. Dysentery is usually caused by one of two different organisms—a bacterium, Shigella, or an amoeba, Entamoeba histolytica.

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Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (HF) is a serious disease that is spread by a RNA virus in the family called Filoviridae. The disease is named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire).

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E. Coli

Escherichia coli is a bacterium found in the human gut. Most strains of E. coli are harmless; however, several can cause severe illness.

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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a rare but deadly disease that was first recognized in 1993 and has since been identified throughout the United States.

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Helicobacter Pylori

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium that lives in human gastric mucosa. About half of the human population has an H. pylori infection, making it one of the world’s most common bacterial infections.

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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that causes a serious disease of the liver. It is spread through contact with the blood or fluids of an infected person.

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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver.

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Histoplasmosis

Histoplasma capsulatum, a fungus that grows in soil and other material contaminated with bat or bird droppings, is the cause of histoplasmosis. When contaminated soil is disturbed, spores become airborne and can be inhaled.

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HIV/AIDS

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

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HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is carried by more than 50 percent of sexually active people at some point in their lives.

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Influenza

Influenza, or flu, is a viral respiratory disease that can affect anyone, from babies to senior citizens. It is a seasonal disease, most prevalent in the fall and winter months.

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Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria carried in the urine of infected animals. Many different kinds of wild and domestic animals may carry the bacterium (e.g., cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, wild animals).

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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which normally lives in mice, squirrels, and other small animals. It is transmitted among these animals—and to humans—through the bites of certain species of ticks.

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Malaria

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans.

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Measles

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. The virus lives in mucus in the nose and throat of an infected person. The disease can spread through the air by breathing, coughing, or sneezing.

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Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by either a virus or bacteria, and correct treatment depends on knowing the difference.

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MRSA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections, including penicillin, amoxicillin, and oxacillin.

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Mumps

The mumps is a contagious viral infection that affects the salivary glands. Before a vaccine was introduced, the mumps was a common illness of childhood.

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Nipah Virus

Nipah virus is an emerging zoonotic virus (a virus transmitted to humans via animals). First recognized in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia, there have been 12 outbreaks since then, all in South Asia.

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Noroviruses

Noroviruses are a group of related viruses, sometimes called “Norwalk-like viruses,” that cause acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) in people.

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Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs most often caused by bacteria or viruses present in the environment. In most instances, these organisms cause only a mild form of the disease.

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Polio

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system. The virus spreads by direct person-to-person contact, contact with infected mucus or phlegm from the nose or mouth, or contact with infected feces.

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Salmonellosis

Salmonella is the name of the bacteria that can cause the infection salmonellosis. Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States.

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SARS

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness. Because it spreads fairly easily, possibly even through the air, SARS was difficult to stop during the 2003 global outbreak.

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Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by parasitic worms that live in certain types of freshwater snails.

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Smallpox

Smallpox is caused by the variola virus, which emerged in human populations thousands of years ago. The disease comes in two forms—variola major and variola minor.

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Tetanus

Tetanus is a disease that affects the nervous system, characterized by painful tightening and spasms of the muscles. It is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which produces a neurotoxin when growing in the absence of oxygen.

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Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Eating undercooked, contaminated meat; drinking water that contains the parasite; and contact with cat feces (by cleaning a litter box, for example) are the most common ways to become infected with the parasite.

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Trichinosis

Trichinosis is caused by the larvae of the roundworm (a helminth), which live in contaminated meat. If people eat contaminated meat that has not been cooked long enough, the larvae can enter the intestine.

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Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, or TB, is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Although TB usually settles in the lungs, it can affect other parts of the body, including the kidney, spine, and brain.

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West Nile Virus

West Nile virus (WNV) is a flavivirus commonly found in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. The most severe type of disease is sometimes called “neuroinvasive disease” because it affects a person’s nervous system.

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Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes; the disease cannot be spread person to person.

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Explore Other Topics

What do you know about infectious disease?

Which of the following global events does NOT have an impact on the spread of infectious disease:

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The expanded use of cell phones does not have an impact on the spread of infectious disease. Climate change, ecosystem disturbances, war, poverty, migration, and global trade all contribute to the spread of infectious disease.

  • Correct!

    The expanded use of cell phones does not have an impact on the spread of infectious disease. Climate change, ecosystem disturbances, war, poverty, migration, and global trade all contribute to the spread of infectious disease.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The expanded use of cell phones does not have an impact on the spread of infectious disease. Climate change, ecosystem disturbances, war, poverty, migration, and global trade all contribute to the spread of infectious disease.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The expanded use of cell phones does not have an impact on the spread of infectious disease. Climate change, ecosystem disturbances, war, poverty, migration, and global trade all contribute to the spread of infectious disease.