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Communicable And Non Communicable Diseases: Meaning, Examples, Types And Prevention

The distinction between communicable and non communicable diseases is that one can be passed from one person to another, while the other cannot. Diseases differ in severity and in the ways that they affect humans.

In most cases communicable diseases are caused by pathogens which are mostly viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Sometimes the diseases are not caused by the pathogens themselves, but by the toxins they produce in the human body. Diseases can also arise from external causes; and from causes that are not living things themselves.

Some diseases have cures available, while for others, the only viable solution is prevention such as vaccination. However, most diseases become less of a public health concern over time; herd immunity occurs when the majority of a population becomes immune to a disease. With better understanding, treatments are also developed, thus reducing the threat.

Communicable And Non Communicable Diseases: Meaning, Examples, Types And Prevention 1

What Are Diseases?

A disease is any particular one of the many abnormal conditions that negatively affect the function or the structure of all or part of an organism. Most diseases have specific signs and symptoms by which they are identified. Diseases are not usually caused by any external injuries.

The signs and symptoms provide pointers to the doctors about what particular disease the patient is suffering from, and also about the severity of the diseases. Sometimes, when the signs are not clear, it is also necessary to take blood samples, urine samples, tissue samples, or scans and X-rays to determine what is wrong with the patient.

Diseases are mostly divided into two; communicable and non communicable diseases. We will be defining what communicable and non communicable diseases are.

a. Communicable Diseases

Communicable Diseases are illnesses that can be passed from one person to another. These diseases can be passed through contact with blood or other body fluids, by contact with the affected person’s skin. Some may be contacted by sharing personal items with the infected person, while air borne diseases can be spread by just being in the presence of the infected person.

b. Non Communicable Diseases

Non Communicable Diseases are illnesses that cannot be passed from one person to another. This does not mean that they are less severe; some non communicable diseases can even kill faster than communicable diseases. However, non communicable diseases poses less of a public health problem because they do not usually affect large numbers of people at a time; meaning that they do not typically reach pandemic levels.

Examples Of Communicable Diseases And Symptoms

a. Covid 19

Covid 19 is a communicable disease caused by a virus; the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Cornona Virus 2. The name of this disease is quite peculiar; it is a new disease. The first known case of Covid 19 was discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019.  Some of the symptoms of this communicable disease include fever, cough, headache, fatigue, loss of smell, loss of taste, and the characteristic breathing difficulties.

Mode of Transmission is mostly when people breathe air that is contaminated by droplets and small airborne particles that have the virus. Even though these particles may remain airborne for several minutes, the risk is highest when people are in close proximity with infected persons. People can also get Covid 19 when they are splashed or sprayed with contaminated fluids in the eyes, nose or mouth. Research indicates that it can also be spread through touching contaminated surfaces.

Treatment of Covid 19 Includes: treatment of Covid 19 is mainly symptomatic; the symptoms are treated, and the patient’s immune system is boosted. At the same time; the patient is isolated; and with time he makes a full recovery. There are vaccines available which make the population less vulnerable, and there are some medications which are soon expected to become available.

2. Ebola

Ebola is a communicable disease caused by Ebola viruses. This disease is mostly prevalent in Western and Central Africa. It was a widespread disease in the 70’s and 80’s, and now, after a long time it is making a resurgence.

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Symptoms of Ebola include fever, sore throat, muscle pain, and headaches. Patients also experience vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and decreased liver and bleeding both internally and externally. This disease is quite deadly; it has an average of 50% casualty rate. Death is usually from loss of body fluids.

Ebola is transmitted from direct contact with body fluids of infected persons. Remember that persons infected with Ebola are likely to bleed. In many cases, it is persons that provide care for infected persons who end up carrying the disease. Ebola may also be transmitted from contact with items that have recently been contaminated body fluids from infected persons.

Treatment for Ebola is mostly symptomatic; it involves oral rehydration therapy, or giving intravenous fluids, as well as treating other symptoms. There are some medications available which have been associated with better results; some of them are atoltivimab/maftivimab/odesivimab and ansuvimab.

c. Influenza

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is communicable disease caused by the influenza viruses. This is so common that in several parts of the world it is expected at certain times of the year, and that is called “flu season.”

Symptoms of the flu include fever which could be mild or very serious, runny nose, sore throat, headache, coughing, muscle pain and fatigue. Sometimes, diarrhea and vomiting can occur, particularly in children. Sometimes, Influenza result in complications such as respiratory distress syndrome, meningitis, encephalitis, and sometimes preexisting health problems may worsen.

Treatment of the flu are usually symptomatic, and the immune system is usually boosted. In extreme cases antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir are given.

Preventive measures such frequent hand washing, and covering one’s mouth and nose can reduce transmission.

d. Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver which is caused by Hepatovirus A (HAV). Symptoms include nausea, jaundice, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Acute liver failure may rarely occur, with this being more common in the elderly.

Hepatitis A may be spread through close contact with infected persons, although it is mostly spread through eating food or drinking water which is contaminated with infected feces. Hepatitis A is also commonly spread through eating undercooked or raw shellfish.

Treatment of Hepatitis A is usually symptomatic; rest is usually recommended, and medication for nausea or diarrhea may also be given. There is also an effective vaccine for hepatitis A.

e. Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is another communicable disease affecting the liver; although this one is more serious. It is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. Symptoms of this disease include:  nausea, vomiting, yellowish skin, fatigue, dark urine, and abdominal pain.

Hepatitis B is spread by exposure to infectious blood or body fluids. This may be spread through intercourse, intravenous drug use, tattoos, receiving blood transfusions, and so on.

Hepatitis B is usually prevented with vaccines, while the use of Condoms are being encouraged globally to prevent the spread of the disease.


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, while AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This is a set of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). When a person newly contacts the virus he is said to be HIV positive, but when the illness reaches an advanced level it is called AIDS.

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS include a brief period of flu-like symptoms, and then usually, the person may have no symptoms for a long time. However, the immune system usually becomes weak, leading to a whole set of illnesses and complications. The illness can be fatal if untreated.

HIV/AIDS is mostly spread through intercourse with the opposite gender; it is passed through the transfer of body fluids from infected persons to other people.

However, the person may be placed on antiretroviral medication to prevent the advancement of the disease. That means a person with HIV can live a healthy and productive life. A person with HIV can live for many years without ever having AIDS.

g. Measles

Measles is a highly communicable disease which is caused by the measles virus. Usually, a person can go several days without any symptoms, but after about 10 to 12 days the symptoms start to show. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes. The most well known symptom of this illness is the rash which usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.

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The disease is spread through contact with an infected person.

Treatment for measles is mainly supportive; there is no medication available to halt the progress of the virus in the body. However, symptomatic treatment such as that to control the fever, oral rehydration solution, and healthy food may also be helpful.

There is an effective vaccine to prevent measles.

h, Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a communicable disease which is usually caused by microbes identified as the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis is a very deadly disease, it used to be much more feared during the 1900s. While it is still very dangerous, there is much more information available about the disease now.

Symptoms may include chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. TB was once called Consumption because it makes the sufferer lose weight, as if being consumed from the inside. However, some infections of TB show no signs or symptoms.

Tuberculosis is spread via prolonged contact with infected persons. It is an air borne disease; bacteria are expelled from the nose and mouth of infected persons, and may then be inhaled by people around them.

Treatment of TB involves the use of antibiotics. Depending on severity of the case it may lead to prolonged hospitals stays, and the use of different antibiotics.

These are just the more popular types of communicable diseases. There are several others; some of which are very deadly, and keep the health authorities on the red alert. Non communicable diseases are also important and must be studied some examples are presented below.

Examples Of Non Communicable Diseases And Symptoms

a. Malaria

Malaria is a disease caused by mosquitoes. It is very common in West and Central Africa, although there are many cases in many other parts of the world. Malaria can result in death, although there are treatments available all over the world.

Symptoms of Malaria include fever, headaches, tiredness, and vomiting. In severe cases, it can cause jaundice, seizures, coma, or death.

Malaria is spread through mosquito bites. The mosquito bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito’s saliva into the blood of the victim. The parasites then travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce. There are about 241 reported cases of malaria every year, and about 627,000 deaths.

b. Diabetes

Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a group of illnesses characterized by metabolic disorders causing a high blood sugar level (hyperglycemia) over a prolonged period of time.  Diabetes is a non communicable disease; it cannot be transmitted from one person to another. It is caused either due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin, or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced.

Symptoms of Diabetes include increased thirst and increased appetite, as well as frequent urination. Diabetes can cause many health complications; including ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state, or death. It is also associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, damage to the nerves, damage to the eyes, foot ulcers, and cognitive impairment.

Treatment of diabetes is not intended to cure the condition; rather it is aimed at keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal, without causing low blood sugar. Some measures used to achieve this include; dietary changes, exercise, weight loss, and use of insulin and other medications.

c. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful and crippling disease. It is a non communicable disease that is believed to be caused by the malfunctioning of the immune system which causes the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone.

Symptoms include joint pain and stiffness, joint swelling, decreased range of motion. This usually gets worse over the years; some patients say they only experienced these difficulties after exercise, but the symptoms progressed slowly over the years, until they can hardly move the affected parts of the body.

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Treatment includes exercise, decreasing joint stress such as by rest or use of a cane, support devices that reduce the stress and tension put on the affected areas, and pain medications. Weight loss may be recommended for those who are overweight. Joint replacement surgery can also be done in some severe cases.

d. Cancer

Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth. This usually has the risk of spreading to other parts of the body. Cancers are not the only kind of tumors; there are also benign tumors which do not have the potential of spreading to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of cancer include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged coughing, unexplained weight loss. While these are possible signs of cancer, doctors have to carry out several other tests so as to be sure because the indicated symptoms can have other causes.

Causes of cancer are many and varied; because there are around 100 different types of this disease. However, cancer is not communicable; it may be caused by a host of factors such as tobacco use, poor diet, obesity, lack of physical activity or excessive drinking of alcohol, certain infections, exposure to ionizing radiation, and hazardous chemicals.

Treatment varies according to the type of cancer; and can include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Pain and symptom management are equally important, especially for people with advanced stages of the disease.

e. Heart Disease

Heart Disease is also called Cardiovascular disease (CVD). This is a class of different diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. Coronary Artery Diseases (CAD) such as angina and myocardial infarction are types of heart disease, while other kinds of heart disease include stroke, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease, valvular heart disease, carditis, aortic aneurysms, cardiomyopathy, abnormal heart rhythms, thromboembolic disease, peripheral artery disease, and venous thrombosis.

Heart disease is not a communicable disease; it may be caused by high blood pressure, smoking, lack of exercise, diabetes mellitus, obesity, high blood cholesterol, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, and poor sleep.

Treatment of Cardiovascular may focus on diet and lifestyle interventions, influenza vaccination to lower the risk of complications arising from the flu, as well as many other treatments including medications, regular monitoring of heart performance, and so on.

This list does not exhaust all known non communicable diseases. However, it is also important to dedicate a few words to preventive measures that can help us avoid some of these diseases.

Prevention of Communicable and Non Communicable Diseases

Depending on the parts of the body affected, and also on the mode of transmission, communicable diseases have different ways via which they are prevented.  As for non communicable diseases, prevention usually means making lifestyle changes.

  1. Hand washing is frequently recommended as a good way to keep free of disease causing germs.

  2. Installation of mosquito nets is a good way of keeping mosquitoes away. Also, standing water must be drained or diverted so that mosquitoes do not breed.

  3. Smoking of cigarettes is associated with several diseases including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. As a preventive measure we must say no to smoking, and also avoid second hand smoke, or close association with smokers.

  4. Regular exercise, and weight loss can also prevent many other illnesses, some of which can be chronic.

  5. It is very important to abstain from casual lovemaking, and to practice safe intercourse with opposite genders.

  6. To prevent complications; it is very dangerous to self medicate. See a doctor as soon as symptoms are noticed.

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