What is an Infectious Disease?

Infectious diseases are diseases caused by infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi. In many cases, an infectious disease can be spread from person to person via direct or indirect contact. Advances in nutrition, antibiotics, immunization, food safety, housing, and sanitation have led to a massive reduction in infectious diseases. However, they remain a global public health issue.  

A university environment presents the potential for the transmission of infectious diseases. This can range from influenza, COVID-19, to other serious diseases.

Following these prevention practices can help limit the spread of infectious diseases:

  • Stay home if you feel ill to avoid making others sick.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, if unavailable, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid close contact with persons you know or suspect to be sick.
  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Ensure vaccines are up to date.
  • Wear face coverings that cover your nose and mouth to help prevent airborne illnesses.

Occasionally, the amount of disease in a community rises above the expected level.

Epidemic refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.

An outbreak carries the same definition of epidemic, but is often used for a more limited geographic area.

Cluster refers to an aggregation of cases grouped in place and time that are suspected to be greater than the number expected, even though the expected number may not be known.

A pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

You can prepare for a pandemic now.

You should know both the magnitude of what can happen during a pandemic outbreak and what actions you can take to help lessen the impact of a pandemic on you and your family. This checklist will help you gather the information and resources you may need in case of a pandemic:

  • Store a two-week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can also be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
  • Keep cleaning supplies at home to adequately clean any potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Prepare for the possibility that airports and roads may be closed and think about a location to meet when travel is possible.
  • Create a list of all cell, work, and home numbers, and e-mail addresses of all family members.

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