Infectious Diseases

Bird flu, malaria, plague and West Nile virus are infectious diseases we've all heard of. Find information on these epidemics and more in this section.


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How to Safely Use Public Bathrooms in the Age of Coronavirus

Sometimes you just can't avoid using a public bathroom. Is it safe with coronavirus raging? How can you be sure?

Tear Gas Used at Protests May Help Spread Coronavirus

Many health experts are gravely concerned about how the massive protest crowds, chanting and especially use of tear gas could accelerate the spread of coronavirus.

How Contact Tracing Works

Learn the steps of contact tracing, one critical way that public health officials stop viruses like COVID-19 from spreading, in this HowStuffWorks video.

What the 1919 Anti-Mask League Can Teach Us About Public Health

Despite strict closing and hygiene orders, San Francisco was hit hard by the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. But some residents balked at the rules and that meant more people died.

Booze-makers Become Germ-busters to Help Stop COVID-19

As COVID-19 rages around the world, distilleries quickly ramp up the switch from booze to hand sanitizer in an all-out effort to curb the spread.

When Does an Epidemic Become a Pandemic?

The World Health Organization just declared the coronavirus a full-blown pandemic. What does that even mean, and how is that different from an epidemic?

What's the Difference Between Quarantine and Isolation?

You've probably heard the word "quarantine" a lot in relation to the coronavirus. But how is it different from patient isolation?

Getting a Grip on Lyme Disease

There's been a steady uptick in Lyme disease across the United States since 1997, but the news isn't all bad.

Tick- and Mosquito-borne Diseases on the Rise

Since 2004, cases of diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes have tripled in the U.S.

To Fight Disease, Should We Treat and Educate Popular People First?

We often lack the resources to treat and educate everyone when combating disease. Moving the 'hubs' of a social network to the front of the line may be most effective.

Cows Have HIV-fighting Power

And that unique ability may propel us closer to an HIV vaccine for humans.

Removing This Invasive Shrub's Flowers Could Help Combat Malaria

Mosquitoes spread deadly malaria, and trimming one specific shrub could make significant headway in battling the disease.

New CDC Quarantine Rules Raise Civil Liberty Concerns

Updated quarantine regulations which would give federal health officials more leeway to detain sick people have some legal and civil rights experts concerned.

Why a Massive Zika Outbreak in the United States Is Unlikely

Sure, the carrier mosquitoes are in the U.S., and so is the disease. But other factors will stave off a widespread incident, experts say.

The Curious Ability to Detect Disease by Smell

Sometimes the nose knows. What advances are being made in detecting diseases by scent?

Keeping Zika Out of the U.S. Blood Supply

The FDA is recommending that all blood donations start being tested for Zika virus in the next 12 weeks. But what about the blood already on hand? What happens to that?

Researchers Analyze Google Data to Show Success of Chickenpox Vaccine

In countries where governments mandate vaccination against chickenpox, a new study finds, online searches for information about symptoms drop.

Can Jet Hand Dryers Really Blast Out a Germ Cloud? Well, Yes and No

Are jet air hand dryers the safest way to dry your hands after using the bathroom or are they blasting invisible microbes through the air with every use?

10 Ways That Doctors Treated Infections Before Antibiotics

With the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, scientists are taking a second look at infection treatments that were popular before antibiotics. Which ones might work today, and which ones are just quackery?

How Genetic Discrimination Works

Just how common is it for schools, jobs and insurers to turn people away based on their DNA?

How Zika Virus Works

As the Zika virus spreads, there's still much health experts don't know. So just how bad is the outbreak, and is it really connected with the rising cases of microcephaly?

Charlie Sheen's HIV Disclosure Measurably Raised Public Awareness

Only Charlie Sheen knows exactly why he went public with his HIV diagnosis last fall, but public health researchers are glad he did, as more people sought information.

WHO: Zika Outbreak Is a Global Health Emergency

The WHO has declared such an emergency only three times before. And in the U.S., public health authorities are reporting the first sexually transmitted Zika infection.

How do diseases jump from infecting animals to infecting humans?

There's such a thing as getting too close to nature. Many diseases that infect animals can make the jump to humans, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Why are highly contagious diseases kept in labs?

It might seem counterintuitive for labs to stock highly contagious diseases, but some researchers insist it's with good reason.