11 key infectious disease terms to know

As international travel, climate change and ecological degradation fuel the global spread of infectious disease, having a firm grasp on epidemiological nomenclature is becoming increasingly important.

NPR on Tuesday published a short glossary compiled by science writer Natalie Jacewicz of important terms and definitions to know regarding infectious diseases. Peter Krause, MD, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., also contributed to the piece.

Here are 11 infectious disease terms to know.

1. Animal-human interface: When humans and animals interact after people set up dwellings on land stripped of trees and other flora, but where forest animals remain prevalent. Diseases can be spread from animals to humans in this manner.

2. Emerging disease: A disease that infects a particular regional population for the first time, or a disease that's been present at low levels in a region but then rapidly becomes more prevalent.

3. Epidemic: An increase in the number of cases of a disease in a particular geographic region exceeding the number typically experienced.

4. Index case: The first person infected with a pathogen known to health officials — often referred to as "patient zero."

5. Microbe: A living thing that is invisible to the human eye like bacteria, fungi or viruses.

6. One Health: A phrase that expresses the inherent linkage between the health of humans, animals and the environment.

7. Pandemic: An epidemic spanning many countries, regions or continents. The parameters of this definition are a bit amorphous and largely depend on the opinions of scientists and health officials using the term.

8. Reservoir: An animal, plant or environment in which a disease can subsist for extended periods of time.

9. Spillover: The transmission of disease from one species to another.

10. Vector: A living creature that passes a disease to another living creature.

11. Zoonotic: Any disease that spreads from animals — including insects — to people.

More articles on infection control: 
Fresno nursing home reports Legionnaires' death 
Peer pressure and fear of the flu can boost hand hygiene: 6 survey findings 
4 things to know about the infection prevention profession

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