Types of Communicable Diseases


Communicable diseases can be spread through bodily fluids, contaminated surfaces, air or food. Some spread during particular seasons, and others may be prevalent year-round in certain locations. Communicable diseases have a variety of symptoms and can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites.

West Nile Virus

  • West Nile Virus (WNV) is spread by mosquito bites. It is generally a mild disease causing few, if any, symptoms, but in some cases, symptoms can be severe---even leading to death. Mild symptoms of WNV include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph node glands. Severe symptoms include headache, fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, disorientation, tremors, paralysis, convulsions and coma. According to the New York State Health Department, about one in 150 people will experience severe symptoms.


  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial lung disease by definition, although it can affect other parts of your body. TB is spread when the cough droplets of a person with untreated pulmonary TB are inhaled. Being around a person with untreated pulmonary TB for long periods of time is usually what causes transmission. Symptoms of TB are, low-grade fever, weight loss, fatigue, persistent cough and night sweats. A person with pulmonary TB is contagious and will continue to be until they have received treatment for many weeks. According to the New York State Health Department 1,300 cases are reported every year in New York State alone.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) include more than 25 to 30 infectious bacteria or viruses that are spread through sex. STDs are spread from person to person, through anal or vaginal intercourse and oral sex. STDs such as AIDS or HIV can also be spread through blood transmission or shared needles used for injecting drugs. Most people with STDs have no symptoms at all, and symptoms vary according to which STD you have. The most commonly known STDs are chlamydia, genital herpes, hepatitis, HIV, HPV and gonorrhea.


  • Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that is highly contagious. Ringworm can appear on the scalp, toenail or any part your skin. Ringworm is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with the infected person, animal or by direct contact from touching infected objects, such as hair clippers, hair, shower stalls and floors. Symptoms generally consist of a pimple-like bump that grows in size. Over the course of the infection, this bump becomes scaly. If the infection happens to be in your hair, it may cause alopecia areata (patchy hair loss). Although ringworm is highly contagious it is easily treatable, your doctor may prescribe you antifungal creams, tablets or powders.


  • Influenza, commonly referred to as "flu," is a highly contagious respiratory infection affecting five to 20 percent of the US population. According to the New York State Health Department, each year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications arising from flu and more than 36,000 people die from these complications. Flu is transmitted from inhaling droplets coughed or sneezed out by a person with flu. It can also be transmitted through a person touching contaminated items then rubbing their eyes, mouth or nose. Common flu symptoms include, fever, headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, achy muscles and stomach upset. Older people, people with pre-existing heart and lung illnesses and children are among the most susceptible to flu.


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