Noninfectious vs. Infectious Diseases

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  • 0:00 Defining Disease
  • 0:35 Infectious Diseases
  • 2:08 Noninfectious Diseases
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Expert Contributor
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

A disease can be either infectious or noninfectious. In this lesson, we will explore the differences between these two types of diseases and look at examples of each.

Defining Disease

What is a disease? This question may sound simple to you as you think about your last bout with the flu. You probably have a basic grasp of the fact that a disease is an illness or condition that prevents your body from working the way it normally would.

However, not all diseases are the same. If they were, we wouldn't need to have so many different types of medical specialists. Diseases can be classified in a variety of different ways. One of these classifications is that diseases can be infectious or noninfectious.

Infectious Diseases

Have you ever heard the saying, 'The laughter was infectious?' It means that sometimes you can be around someone who starts laughing, and it makes you laugh. The laughter keeps spreading from person to person until everyone in the group has joined in. The same scenario could be true if a disease is infectious.

Infectious diseases are illnesses that are contagious, meaning they can be spread from one person to another. Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, called pathogens, or what we commonly refer to as germs. Viral and bacterial infections are the most common causes of infectious disease. However, fungi and one-celled organisms called protozoa can also be responsible.

Imagine someone sitting down next to you on a crowded bus. They are coughing and sneezing. You offer the person a tissue, and they tell you they have a cold. The common cold is caused by a virus, which is an infectious disease. If you want to avoid catching a cold also, this might be a good time to look for another seat.

Pathogens can be spread through insect bites or sexual contact. You could also eat or drink something that is contaminated. They can even be spread by breathing the air around someone who is sick. Some infectious diseases, such as measles, can be prevented by a vaccination, which is a shot that makes you immune to the pathogen. Proper hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly, can also help prevent infectious diseases. Prevention is important because, worldwide, infectious diseases kill more people than any other cause.

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Additional Activities

Disease Prevention

In this research activity, students will learn about four different diseases and their prevention. During their research, students will learn about the causes of four different diseases, categorize them as infectious or noninfectious, and learn about their prevention and treatment. Students should choose diseases they are familiar with so they can apply their knowledge to the real world.

For example, a student may choose to research the flu. Students would learn that the flu is caused by the influenza virus and is an example of an infectious disease. They would also learn that the flu can be prevented by washing hands and getting the flu vaccine. The flu is usually treated at home with rest and over the counter medication. The table students would fill in might look like this:

DiseaseCauseInfectious or NoninfectiousPreventionTreatment
FluInfluenza virusInfectiousHand washing and vaccineRest and over the counter medication

Student Instructions

In this activity, you're going to be researching four different diseases you are familiar with. This might include things like the common cold, HIV, or diabetes. For each disease, you'll learn about the cause, categorize it as infectious or noninfectious, and learn about the prevention and treatment. Record the results of your research in the table below and site your sources. Make sure to only use credible sources, such as Mayo Clinic, WebMD, or other sources that are from scientists, doctors, universities, or news outlets.

DiseaseCauseInfectious or NoninfectiousPreventionTreatment

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for academic purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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