Disease Transmission From Humans, Animals, and Insects
Some bacteria, viruses, and other biological agents can be spread from
person to person or from animals or insects to people. The ease of
international travel has made many of these health threats more difficult to
contain. Recent health threats such as SARS (severe acute respiratory
West Nile virus, and monkeypox have made people more
aware of how easily disease can spread not only within a community but from one
community to the next.
With some exceptions such as
pneumonic plague, which are contagious diseases, most
biological agents that could be used as bioterror weapons are not spread from
person to person.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have current, reliable
information on communicable diseases and health concerns throughout the world.
For updates on specific health emergencies, visit their websites:
What you can do
To reduce your chances of being
infected with or spreading a contagious disease:
- Wash your hands with soap and water
often, especially if you live with or come into contact with someone who
- Do not share bedding, towels, utensils, or other items
with someone who is sick or, if you are sick, with anyone
- Avoid exposure to disease-carrying animals and insects if you
are in an area where these are a problem.
- Follow the advice of
local health authorities if there has been a disease outbreak in your community
or in an area where you are traveling. It is especially important to follow
health experts' instructions if you live or work with someone who becomes sick.
For instance, you may be advised to wear a surgical mask if you
are in close contact with someone who has a serious contagious illness, such as
SARS. Make sure you know how to properly fit and wear the mask.
- If there is an outbreak of a contagious disease in your area,
do not leave the area unless authorities tell you to. If you have already been
infected, you may spread the disease. Leaving the area may also cause a delay
in your diagnosis or treatment.
Also see the Bioterrorism and Vaccinations section of
this topic. A vaccine for smallpox is available for certain high-risk groups
but is not recommended for the general public at this time.