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Contagious vs. Infectious

November 2014
Spot the Error

When Al saw Julie back at work only days after she had been diagnosed with pneumonia, he became concerned that she might be contagious.

With Ebola all over the news these days, I thought this would be a good time to discuss the difference between contagious and infectious. Yes, there is a difference. It’s a subtle difference, but one worth knowing.

All contagious diseases are infectious, but not all infectious diseases are contagious.

Infectious diseases are caused by microscopic germs that get into your body and wreak havoc. If the disease can be spread from person to person, it is contagious. Examples include chickenpox, measles, and the common cold. However, not all infectious diseases are spread person to person. For example, Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected tick and malaria by an infected mosquito.

As for pneumonia, pneumonia is not spread from one person to the next. It is as contagious as a broken arm or a bad haircut. So, in the “pneumonia” sentence above, Al has nothing to worry about.

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