8 Contagious Diseases on the Rise

  • Young Hispanic man sick in bed with cough due to cold, flu or bronchitis
    What You Need to Know About Rising Communicable Diseases
    Contagious diseases (also called ‘communicable diseases’ or ‘infectious diseases’) are illnesses that spread easily from person to person. These diseases may not require close personal contact to infect someone else. The measles virus, for example, can linger in the air for up to two hours after an infected person coughs. When someone else inhales the virus, they, too, can get measles. As the contagious diseases list continues to grow, protect yourself by staying up to date about emerging threats like antibiotic-resistant bacteria and an influenza pandemic.

  • illustration of coronavirus, image credit Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1. COVID-19
    A coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is causing the worst pandemic since the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a disease marked by fever, shortness of breath, body aches, and loss of smell, among other symptoms. The virus spreads through contact with droplets and air exhaled from an infected person. New COVID-19 vaccines offer hope for an end to the pandemic.
  • nurse-drawing-blood-from-patient
    2. Clostridioides difficile
    Formerly Clostridium difficile, this infection tops the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) list of urgent public health threats. A C. diff infection can be deadly, and the bacterium spreads easily. The infection causes colitis (inflammation of the bowel) and diarrhea. C. diff occurs during or after taking antibiotics, often in conjunction with a hospitalization. Anyone with suspected C. diff (and any household members or caregivers) should wear gloves when dealing with bowel movements and wash their hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water to avoid transmitting the potentially deadly bacteria to others.

  • close up of female scientist examining petri dish in laboratory
    3. Drug-resistant Bacteria
    Many types of bacteria have developed drug resistance in recent years. Here’s a list of the most common. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) resists treatment by the most potent antibiotics currently available; E. coli is one such bacterium that can become resistant. Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter is a particular threat to people with a weak immune system. Drug-resistant Campylobacter can spread through undercooked poultry. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a drug-resistant form of pneumococcal disease. Drug-resistant Salmonella spreads through undercooked or improperly handled food. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection typically of the lungs.

    To avoid contracting bacterial infections, practice good hand hygiene regularly, cook food thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 165°F, and avoid ordering raw or rare meat in restaurants.
  • Couple with condom
    4. Drug-resistant Gonorrhea
    The number of gonorrhea infections in the United States has been rising rapidly since 2009, and now the CDC reports that gonorrhea has developed resistance to all but one type of medication used to treat this sexually transmitted disease. Untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. To avoid gonorrhea, you should use condoms every time you have sex, refrain from having multiple sex partners, refrain from unprotected oral sex, and get tested annually for STDs.

  • Young Caucasian toddler boy getting vaccine shot in arm
    5. Measles
    U.S. measles cases have risen almost every year since 2010, with a large spike occurring between 2018 and 2019. The measles virus can be fatal, or it can cause complications that include deafness and learning disability in children. You cannot treat measles, but you can vaccinate against it. The measles vaccine is safe and cannot cause measles. Talk with your pediatrician about when to immunize your children, and speak to your own doctor to find out if you should get a booster vaccination, especially if you’re planning international travel.

  • boy-having-temperature-checked
    6. Influenza
    Influenza (the flu virus) spreads rapidly between people and does not require direct personal contact. You can get the flu from breathing the air near an infected person or from touching your eye after touching a contaminated surface, for example. Seasonal influenza currently represents a larger health threat than an influenza pandemic, which occurs when a new strain of the flu virus emerges anywhere in the world and rapidly infects large numbers of people. To avoid contracting influenza (or to minimize the severity of symptoms), get a flu shot each season.

  • team of doctors attending patient in hospital
    7. Ebola Virus
    Thought to be all but eradicated, the Ebola virus has recently re-emerged in Africa. This deadly disease can cause fatal hemorrhaging (bleeding) in those who contract it. Ebola virus disease currently does not represent a major health threat in the United States. However, anyone traveling internationally (especially in Africa) who develops symptoms—or who come in contact with people recently returned from international travel who exhibit signs of the virus, such as fever, diarrhea and bleeding—should seek a medical evaluation for Ebola.

  • MRSA bacteria
    8. MRSA
    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) garnered much attention many years ago as one of the first antibiotic-resistant bacteria to emerge. Today, MRSA still represents a public health threat. These bacteria can infect surgical sites, cause bloodstream infections, and trigger pneumonia. Left untreated, MRSA can be fatal. To avoid contracting MRSA, you should wash your hands thoroughly and frequently (especially after being out in public), use gloves when cleansing a wound or changing a dressing, and avoid sharing personal care items like razors that abrade the skin and could transfer the infection to someone else.

Contagious Diseases on the Rise | Influenza, Ebola & Measles

About The Author

As “the nurse who knows content,” Elizabeth Hanes, RN, works with national and regional healthcare systems, brands, agencies and publishers to produce all types of consumer-facing content. Formerly a perioperative and cosmetic surgery nurse, Elizabeth today uses her nursing knowledge to inform her writing on a wide variety of medical, health and wellness topics.
  1. Infectious Disease. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infectious-disease.htm
  2. Biggest Threats and Data. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/biggest_threats.html
  3. Measles. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/measles.html
  4. Gonorrhea. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/gonorrhea.html
  5. Pandemic Influenza. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/index.htm
  6. Measles (Rubeola). U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html
  7. Ebola. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ebola.html


Was this helpful?
22
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.