Communicable diseases are illnesses that can be transmitted from person to person or animal to person.

People spread communicable diseases to others in variety of ways: 

  • Contact with contaminated body fluids: A common way respiratory illnesses like whooping cough (pertussis) are transmitted is through contact with contaminated body fluids.
  • Eating contaminated foods or beverages:  Foodborne illnesses like salmonella are often spread by eating contaminated foods.

With any communicable disease, it is important to understand how the illness is transmitted and use appropriate preventative measures (such as handwashing and covering your cough) to stay healthy.

There are over 70 communicable diseases that are reportable to the health department. Physicians play a critical role in the prompt reporting of communicable diseases and can make the difference between an outbreak being prevented or occurring. A number of outbreaks or situations, such as West Nile Virus, pertussis and some enteric outbreaks were initially identified by astute clinicians reporting to public health authorities. For physicians wishing to report communicable diseases, view additional resources.