Contagious vs. Infectious: What's the difference?

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Difference between Contagious and Infectious

Societies are increasingly mobile. Even if you aren't one of those who travels often, you may come into contact with those who are when you are out and about in your own neighborhood. Organizations like the CDC and WHO try to keep us alert and aware of diseases spreading around the world and around your town. It is very important for us to know how to protect ourselves and what to protect ourselves against, because these days diseases are very easy to catch and just as easy to transmit to the people around us.

We might think that contagious diseases and infectious diseases are one and the same, however no matter how similar we perceive both terms to be, they do not exactly refer to the same thing. Although they have similar meanings, they can be defined and distinguished as separate and differing conditions.



An infection is a condition caused by the presence and subsequent assault of pathogenic microorganisms on an organ of a plant or animal, or on the organism itself. 

Infectious diseases are illnesses caused by these problematic microorganisms. Although there are many—and perhaps millions—of kinds of disease-causing microorganisms, their potency to negatively affect and attack an organism’s well-being would often still depend on the healthiness of the organism. Infectious diseases are not necessarily always contagious.

Contagious diseases by definition are illnesses that can be acquired through close contact with the infected organism. Contagious diseases are basically infections that are transmitted easily from one living thing to another through the microorganism’s replication or spreading by means of physical contact even by breathing near a contagious person.


Infectious diseases may be transmitted by viruses, bacteria, fungi or protozoa. In humans there is a long list of infectious diseases that we need to be aware of. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, for example, is a disease caused by a mosquito-borne virus called DENV. Human beings acquire the disease once bitten by mosquitoes with DENV. Although this disease is highly life threatening, it is not contagious. 

There are so many contagious infectious diseases out there that we should protect ourselves from. The HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) syndrome—a well-known disease that may develop into AIDS and subsequently become fatal—is contagious, and can be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood and breast milk. Other contagious infections include athlete’s foot—a fungal infection that can be transmitted person to person by sharing footwear or walking around barefoot in populated moist areas and syphilis, a bacterial disease that is transmitted through sexual contact.

Important Protection

There are simple ways of protecting ourselves from infectious and contagious diseases. The very basic way is to observe proper hygiene and look after our health and well-being. An effective habit of washing hands properly and frequently can do so much in preventing the spreading of possible disease-causing germs or bacteria. 

We should also learn to look after and take care of our bodily resistance through a balanced diet of healthy food, daily exercise and regular meditation. It is also important for us to avoid unnecessary physical contact with others and pay attention to symptoms of being sick in those around us.


  • A disease may be infectious, but not all infectious diseases are necessarily contagious.
  • It is important for us to be able to distinguish the two medical terms to help us understand the occurrence and curing of diseases.
  • There are simple ways of preventing diseases, such as a healthy lifestyle and proper hygiene.
  • Wash your hands several times a day and you’ll see the results!


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