Communicable Disease

Preventing and controlling the spread of disease is at the heart of much public health work. From influenza and Lyme disease to malaria and Ebola, outbreaks of infectious diseases can have an extraordinary impact on human health.

Preventionwoman washing her hands

There are many ways to prevent the spread of disease. Vaccinations have helped eliminate or greatly reduced disease threats. Kids, teens and adults should all be protected and stay up to date with their recommended immunizations. Proper handwashing, especially before and after handling food and using the toilet, helps keep germs at bay.

Other important ways to slow or stop disease transmission are by ensuring the food we eat and water we drink is safe, avoiding people who are sick and practicing safe sex.

About communicable diseases

Some diseases spread from one person to another while others can spread from animal to person. Some are spread through the air, by touch or through bodily fluids. Some diseases may produce mild symptoms; others can be lethal. As APHA member Jonathan Fielding, professor of public health and pediatrics at UCLA, writes in this op-ed, "Without the necessary funds, fighting Zika, Ebola and other infectious disease is a losing battle."

More than 200 infectious diseases are listed in APHA’s Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. Some include:

Zika
Ebola
Dengue
Influenza: seasonal; pandemic (PDF); H1N1 swine flu (PDF)
Lyme disease
MERS

More communicable disease resources

Get Ready
CDC
WHO
CIDRAP

The Smallpox episode of the multimedia series Microbe Hunters tells one of the greatest health stories out there.

The National Foundation for Infectious Disease has a shingles awareness campaign that includes a fact sheet and online quiz.