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About Our Name

A collage of the kind of work conducted by the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

Infectious diseases are illnesses caused by germs (such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that enter the body, multiply, and can cause an infection.

  • Some infectious diseases are contagious (or communicable), that is, spread from one person to another.
  • Other infectious diseases can be spread by germs carried in air, water, food, or soil. They can also be spread by vectors (like biting insects) or by animals.

Emerging means infections that have increased recently or are threatening to increase in the near future. These infections could be

  • completely new (like Bourbon virus, which was recently discovered in Kansas or MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
  • completely new to an area (like chikungunya in Florida).
  • reappearing in an area (like dengue in south Florida and Texas).
  • caused by bacteria  that have become resistant to antibiotics, like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), C. difficile, or drug-resistant TB.

Zoonotic means infectious diseases of animals that are spread to humans by ticks, mosquitoes, or fleas or contact with animals; some examples include:

  • Lyme disease (spread by ticks).
  • Salmonella (spread by poultry).
  • rabies (spread by mammals).