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What is an infectious disease?

COVID-19 has demonstrated to our generation the global disruption that can be caused by an infectious disease. It is, however, not the only infectious disease that affects developing communities. 

Here we discuss what an infectious disease is, and some common examples of the infectious diseases which continue to cause disruption around the world.

How do we define an “infectious disease”?

An infectious disease is caused by pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. These microorganisms carry infectious diseases, and can be transmitted from person to person. The transmission of the microorganism, allows the disease to enter the body of the new host.

What are some common examples of infectious diseases?

There are many known infectious diseases. Some examples include: 

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Common Cold
  • Bird Flu
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • Malaria
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ebola
  • Hepatitis A, B and C
  • Polio (Poliomyelitis)
  • Dengue
  • Yellow Fever
  • Smallpox
  • Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
  • Tetanus

How do infectious diseases spread?

There are four main ways in which an infectious disease can spread. These include:

  • Direct contact: Touching, being in close contact for an extended period of time, or direct contact with bodily fluids is one of the most common forms of transmission. 
  • Airborne: When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they put droplets containing small particles of the disease into the air. An infectious disease spreads if a non-infected person breathes in these particles. 
  • Contaminated surfaces and objects: If a person touches an object or surface that has been contaminated with droplets from coughs or sneezes, an infectious disease will then be transmitted to their hands. If they do not wash their hands correctly before eating or touching their nose, mouth or eyes, the disease could enter their body.
  • Mother to unborn child: A pregnant woman can pass on germs that will give her baby an infectious disease while still in the womb or during childbirth.

Are all infectious diseases communicable?

Not all infectious diseases are classed as communicable diseases. Communicable diseases are those that can spread from close or extended contact with people who already have the disease, regardless of how they themselves contracted it. Some examples include the common cold and influenza.

What is the difference between an infectious disease and a non-infectious disease?

A non-infectious disease is not caused by a pathogen and cannot be transmitted from person to person. Non-infectious diseases, such as diabetes or cancer, are likely to be caused by factors such as lifestyle, environmental toxins or gene mutations.

How are infectious diseases treated?

The treatment of an infectious disease depends on the type of micro-organism that has caused the illness.


Infectious diseases caused by bacteria, such as tuberculosis, can be treated with antibiotics, which work by killing the bacteria and thus curing the infection.


It is possible to develop medicines and drugs to help the body fight viruses, such as ebola. Vaccines are also available for some viruses, including polio and measles. Where a vaccine is not available, supportive therapies like rest, diet and increase of fluid intake can suppress symptoms and bolster the immune system to fight the virus.

Fungi and parasites

Infections caused by fungi and parasites can be treated with antifungal medications or antiparasitic drugs such as albendazole. Malaria is one example of an infectious disease caused by parasites.

Your donation can stop the spread of infectious diseases in developing countries

COVID-19 has brought greater attention to the challenges developing communities face in regard to infectious diseases, but it is only one of many illnesses that need to be addressed. 

Communities in Papua New Guinea were already struggling to cope with outbreaks of measles and polio. The disruption caused by COVID-19 threatens to send families into extreme poverty, and overwhelm an exhausted healthcare system. 

We need your help to stop the spread of COVID-19, but also to prevent outbreaks of other infectious diseases in the communities where we work.

There’s three ways you can help stop the spread:

  • Sponsor a child: Begin a journey of change with a child in poverty and their family. Your support will help keep your sponsored child healthy, safe and provide access to life-changing programs that build resilience and empower children to reach their full potential.

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