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Infectious Diseases

Infectious Disease information and resources for the MSK community, including clinicians, patients, and the general public.

What are Pathogens?

A pathogen is any organism that causes disease. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites are all examples of pathogens.

Your body is naturally full of microbes. However, these microbes only cause a problem if your immune system is weakened or if they manage to enter a normally sterile part of your body.

Pathogens are different and can cause disease upon entering the body.

All a pathogen needs to thrive and survive is a host. Once the pathogen sets itself up in a host’s body, it manages to avoid the body’s immune responses and uses the body’s resources to replicate before exiting and spreading to a new host.

Pathogens can be transmitted a few ways depending on the type. They can be spread through skin contact, bodily fluids, airborne particles, contact with feces, and touching a surface touched by an infected person.

Protecting Yourself from Pathogens

The following are ways that you can protect yourself and others against pathogens.

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Get vaccinated and ensure vaccinations are up to date.
  • Prepare, cook, and store meat and other foods properly.
  • Stay home when you’re sick, especially if you have a fever or diarrhea, or are vomiting.
  • Don’t share personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes.
  • Don’t share drinking glasses or utensils.
  • Protect against insect bites.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Travel wisely by getting informed about health risks and special vaccinations.