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Difference Between Communicable and Contagious

What are Communicable and Contagious?

Contagious diseases are those diseases that are spread by direct or indirect contact, while communicable diseases are those infectious diseases that are spread by infection carrying agents (viruses and bacteria). Anything that is “contagious” is by default “infectious”. This is because you may come in contact or get exposed to someone carrying the infectious agent, but something that is infectious may not be always contagious.

Communicable diseases are all infectious. However, all infectious diseases may or may not be contagious. 

For e.g., a flu is infectious and contagious. In a flu, an infectious pathogen finds its way into the body (for example a flu virus) and spreads to other people by contact (touching, kissing or shaking hands). But infectious diseases which are not contagious include – food poisoning (for example bacteria). In this the bacterial agents find its way into the body by eating contaminated food but this disease is not spread to other people by direct or indirect contact.

For more clarity, communicable diseases are infectious ones and capable of being spread by infectious agents. Infection of diseases means invasion and increase in the number of microorganisms in body tissues. Contagious on the other hand talks is a disease capable of being spread from person to person or animal to animal. 

So, a disease can be infectious and not contagious at the same time.  Malaria and typhoid are both illnesses that are basically water- and food-borne infectious diseases. So, malaria is not contagious, but it is an infectious disease.

Prevention of communicable diseases which are infectious as well as contagious at the same time include;

  • Maintaining hygiene and washing hands frequently
  • Proper vaccination
  • Use of antibiotics
  • Maintaining distance with others in case there are signs and symptoms of any infection
  • Smart food preparation
  • Properly clean and disinfect the ‘hot zones’ in your residential areas
  • Safe sexual activity (use condoms)
  • Avoid sharing personal items (tooth brush, towels etc)
  • Travel wisely


Both communicable and contagious diseases are caused by several pathogens and are mostly preventable and treatable. Both have one thing in common and that is infectious agents. 


A communicable disease is infectious and catching and caused by germs and pathogens. These are usually spread from one person to another, through contaminated food and water. In this, a microbe can invade the body


Microbe or infectious agent can spread from one body to another. One way in which a contagious disease spreads is through direct physical contact (kissing, touching, sharing common items with an individual who carries the infectious agents). Another way is when an infectious pathogenic agents or microbes enter into body through the environment (air) when someone carrying the infection sneezes or coughs.

Difference between Communicable and Contagious



Communicable diseases are spread by infectious agents. This illness is caused by a microscopic organism, which are spread normally through indirect contact


Contagious diseases are those diseases that are spread by contact. The diseases that are contagious usually spread through people and animals.



A communicable disease is caused by pathogenic agents like bacterial agents, viral agents and several parasites like;

  • Metabolic disorder
  • Allergy
  • Pathogen
  • Hormonal balance

Communicable diseases usually spread through direct or indirect contact with people who are infected, through contaminated water and food and insect vectors.


Contagious diseases spread through direct or indirect contact with infected people.

At several occasions, people get contagious diseases by coming in contact with either an infected human being or some object or item that is contaminated – like sharing a straw or juice pipe with someone who has mono or going for shower at a place just used by someone who has athlete’s foot. 



Malaria, rabies, Lyme disease


Flu, common cold, strep throat


The points of difference between Communicable and Contagious have been summarized as below:

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References :

[0]Connolly, M. A., Gayer, M., Ryan, M. J., Salama, P., Spiegel, P., & Heymann, D. L. (2004). Communicable diseases in complex emergencies: impact and challenges. The Lancet, 364(9449), 1974-1983.

[1]Kouadio, I. K., Aljunid, S., Kamigaki, T., Hammad, K., & Oshitani, H. (2012). Infectious diseases following natural disasters: prevention and control measures. Expert review of anti-infective therapy, 10(1), 95-104.

[2]Smith, F. B. (1990). The contagious diseases acts reconsidered. Social History of Medicine, 3(2), 197-215.

[3]Van Panhuis, W. G., Grefenstette, J., Jung, S. Y., Chok, N. S., Cross, A., Eng, H., ... & Burke, D. S. (2013). Contagious diseases in the United States from 1888 to the present. The New England journal of medicine, 369(22), 2152.

[4]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Morbidity_Communicable_Diseases_-_2016.jpg

[5]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stupidity_is_contagious.jpg

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