Communicable Diseases Overview

A communicable disease is one that is contagious and can be transmitted from one person to another through direct contact, exchange of bodily fluids, or indirect means. Despite increased attention towards communicable diseases control after 1992 report by the Institute of Medicine, they still present a severe threat to the heath of my community (Khabbaz, 2014). Various factors contribute to the spread of HIV, all kinds of STDs, chronic hepatitis, health-care-associated infections, and other endemic diseases.

Health-care-associated infections (HAI) are a serious challenge to the health of my community. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five patients contracts an HAI in one of the US health care facilities (Khabbaz, 2014). While infections caused by unsafe injection practices have been significantly reduced due to the nationwide educational campaigns, other HAIs such as central-line-associated bloodstream infections, surgical-site infections, and catheter-associated infections result in 99 000 annual deaths (Khabbaz, 2014).

Another disease that poses a serious threat to the public health care of my community is chronic hepatitis. According to CDC estimation, near 1,4 million people in the USA have chronic hepatitis B infections (HBV) (CDC, 2016d). It is estimated that from 2,7 to 3,9 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) (CDC, 2016d). The main danger of the disease lies in the fact that the majority of people with chronic hepatitis are not aware of their condition, which significantly increases their chances of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer (Khabbaz, 2014).

Effective control of communicable diseases depends on comprehensive public-health surveillance efforts combined with preventive activities and curative measures.


There are several bio-agents that pose a potential threat to public health and therefore have been defined as “select agents” (CDC, 2016a). They fall under three different categories and their use, transfer, and possession are being regulated by CDC (CDC, 2016b). Currently, there are 65 agents and toxins that are considered dangerous (CDC, 2016b).

One of the biggest risks to national security is biological terrorism involving the dissemination of category A biological agents such as tularaemia, anthrax, smallpox, bubonic plague, botulinum toxin, and viral hemorrhagic fevers (CDC, 2016b).

Bacillus anthracis is widely recognized by scientists as the cause of anthrax that is a communicable disease. People can get infected by anthrax from contact with animals. Cases of human infection are rare. Almost all forms of anthrax, except inhalation and gastrointestinal anthrax, can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed at the early stage (CDC, 2016a). The symptoms of anthrax include fevers, chills, vomiting, and skin sores (CDC, 2016a). The most effective prevention measure against the disease is an anthrax vaccine (CDC, 2016a).

Another deadly infection that might be used as a biological weapon is smallpox. This infection is caused by the variola virus, and it is highly contagious (CDC, 2016c). Unlike, anthrax it spreads only by direct contact with the infected people and by sharing personal objects such as linen or clothing with them (CDC, 2016c). Among the symptoms of smallpox are high fever, vomiting, and progressive skin rashes (CDC, 2016c). Vaccination is an effective preventive measure against the disease. Currently, there are no reported cases of smallpox in the United States and according to WHO it has been almost eradicated (CDC, 2016c).

Given the severity of the danger of both diseases and their possible impact on public health, community health nurses must work at the local level to obtain the most relevant and up-to-date disease surveillance information.


CDC (2016a). Anthrax. Web.

CDC (2016b). Division of Select Agents and Toxins: What is a Select Agent? Web.

CDC (2016c). What is smallpox? Web.

CDC (2016d). What is Viral Hepatitis? Web.

Khabbaz, R., Moseley, R., Steiner, R., Levitt, A., & Bell, B. (2014). Challenges of infectious diseases in the USA. The Lancet, 384(9937), 53-63.

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NursingBird. "Communicable Diseases Overview." November 8, 2023.