The National Academies

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

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Microbe Awareness

Salad bars may harbor agents of foodborne illness, such as Salmonella bacteria, if the food has not been handled properly.

Credit: iStockphoto

Microbe Awareness

Daily habits provide some of the strongest defenses against infectious diseases. Among the sensible actions you can take:
  • Keep immunizations up to date.
  • Wash your hands often. Washing with regular soap and rinsing with running water, followed by thorough drying, is considered the most important way to prevent disease transmission. The routine use of antibacterial products—such as those that contain the chemical triclosan—has not proven to confer health benefits and may actually contribute to antibiotic resistance.
  • Prepare and handle food carefully. (See “How to Protect Yourself” in Foodborne Pathogens.)
  • Use antibiotics only for infections caused by bacteria. Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication if your condition warrants it.
  • Report to your doctor any rapidly worsening infection or any infection that does not get better after taking a course of antibiotics, if prescribed.
  • Be careful around all wild animals and unfamiliar domestic animals. If bitten by an animal, cleanse the wound with soap and water and consult a clinician for further evaluation. Enjoy wild animals with your eyes, not by touching them.
  • Avoid insect bites whenever possible by using insect repellent and wearing a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat outdoors.
  • Protect yourself by having safer sex. You and your partner should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), if there has been any risk of exposure. Consistently and correctly use condoms when having sex with a partner of unknown status. Avoid sex with an injecting drug user.
  • Stay alert to disease threats when traveling or visiting developing countries. Seek advice from a reliable source such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if you are going to areas of moderate-to-high disease risk.
  • Acquire healthy habits such as eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and avoiding tobacco and illegal drug use.
Learn more about these related topics:

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Disease Watchlist

What do you know about infectious disease?

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the number of people in the world has: 

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Since the beginning of the 20th century the number of people in the world has more than quadrupled—from 1.6 billion to nearly 7 billion—and world population is expected to rise to well over 9 billion by 2050.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Since the beginning of the 20th century the number of people in the world has more than quadrupled—from 1.6 billion to nearly 7 billion—and world population is expected to rise to well over 9 billion by 2050.

  • Correct!

    Since the beginning of the 20th century the number of people in the world has more than quadrupled—from 1.6 billion to nearly 7 billion—and world population is expected to rise to well over 9 billion by 2050.

Infectious Disease Defined

Microbe

Sometimes referred to as a microorganism, a microbe is an organism that is microscopic and thus invisible to the naked eye. 

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National Academies Press

Search the National Academies Press website by selecting one of these related terms.