Epidemiology of Communicable & Noncommunicable Diseases

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  • 0:02 What Is Epidemiology?
  • 0:38 Communicable Diseases
  • 1:41 Examples of…
  • 2:26 Non-Communicable Disease
  • 3:05 Examples of…
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Within the field of epidemiology, there are two major classifications of disease: communicable and non-communicable. Today you will learn the differences between these classifications, as well as some examples of each.

What Is Epidemiology?

Medicine is a gigantic, ever-changing field with many areas of specialization. One of the fastest changing of these is epidemiology, which involves the study and possible control of disease.

Think of it as the health profession's spy masters - epidemiologists study everything they can about disease, including the causes, how it moves, and how it can be defeated, in order to allow humans to cope with it all much more easily. In this lesson, we are going to look at the epidemiology of the two major branches of disease: communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Communicable Diseases

During fall and winter, you probably see many reminders to wash your hands. After all, as the almost-unavoidable placards, advertisements, and reminders from loved ones state, you don't want to catch a cold or the flu.

Both the common cold and influenza are examples of communicable diseases, or those diseases that you can catch. The cold and flu are transmitted through tiny droplets that are expelled when someone coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in by others or transferred to their hands if they touch any droplet-covered surfaces. Making sure to cover your mouth and wash your hands now, aren't you?

However, communicable diseases don't only move through the air. They can also be found in water, soil, biological fluids, or even bodily waste matter. Additionally, even animals can act as a vector for communicable diseases. Vectors are pathways from an infected individual to a soon-to-be infected individual. For example, mosquitoes carry malaria and yellow fever, while ticks can transmit Lyme disease.

Examples of Communicable Diseases

The vast majority of diseases that you've been exposed to throughout your life have probably been communicable. When you were younger, you may have had the measles or chickenpox. In fact, before there was a good vaccine for chickenpox, some people intentionally exposed their children to the virus so as to build an immunity to shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the same virus.

Chances are you will be fighting the more common communicable diseases, like the cold, flu, and stomach viruses, in bouts for much of your adult life. However, keep in mind there are numerous other communicable diseases that exist; Ebola, HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis are just a few examples of more serious communicable diseases that are much rarer than the cold and flu.

Non-Communicable Diseases

Still, not every disease can so easily jump from one person to another. In fact, for some, it's flat-out impossible. These are called non-communicable diseases because they cannot be transferred to other people. With these diseases, that's the good news. The bad news is this doesn't mean that they are any less common.

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