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Communicable Disease vs. Non-Communicable Disease: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 28, 2023
Communicable diseases spread between people, while non-communicable diseases do not.

Key Differences

Communicable diseases are caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites and can be spread directly or indirectly between individuals. Non-communicable diseases, also known as chronic diseases, are not infectious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another.
While communicable diseases often present with acute symptoms and can lead to epidemics, non-communicable diseases typically develop slowly and last for extended periods, often leading to long-term health impacts.
Prevention of communicable diseases often involves hygiene, vaccinations, and avoiding contact with infected individuals. In contrast, preventing non-communicable diseases generally focuses on lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol.
Treatment for communicable diseases usually includes medications such as antibiotics or antivirals to target the infectious agent. Non-communicable diseases often require long-term management, including medication, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgery.
Public health measures for controlling communicable diseases include quarantine and sanitation efforts. For non-communicable diseases, public health focuses on education, health screenings, and policies to promote healthy environments.

Comparison Chart


Bacteria, viruses, parasites.
Not caused by infectious agents.


Direct or indirect between people.
Cannot be transmitted between people.

Symptoms and Course

Often acute; can lead to epidemics.
Usually chronic; long-term health impacts.

Prevention Strategies

Hygiene, vaccinations, avoiding infected individuals.
Lifestyle changes, health education.

Treatment Approach

Targeting infectious agent with medications.
Long-term management, lifestyle changes, medication.

Communicable Disease and Non-Communicable Disease Definitions

Communicable Disease

Spread by infectious agents.
The flu is a common communicable disease.

Non-Communicable Disease

Often related to genetics.
Hypertension can be a hereditary non-communicable disease.

Communicable Disease

Transmitted between people.
Measles is a highly communicable disease.

Non-Communicable Disease

Chronic and not infectious.
Diabetes is a widespread non-communicable disease.

Communicable Disease

Often requires quarantine.
During the outbreak, patients with the communicable disease were quarantined.

Non-Communicable Disease

Managed with lifestyle changes.
Heart disease, a non-communicable disease, can be managed with diet and exercise.

Communicable Disease

Can cause epidemics.
HIV/AIDS is a globally significant communicable disease.

Non-Communicable Disease

Not spread person-to-person.
Asthma, a non-communicable disease, cannot be caught from others.

Communicable Disease

Includes bacterial infections.
Tuberculosis is a serious communicable disease.

Non-Communicable Disease

Includes lifestyle diseases.
Obesity is a common non-communicable disease.


Are non-communicable diseases contagious?

No, they cannot be transmitted between people.

Can vaccines prevent communicable diseases?

Yes, many are preventable by vaccines.

Can non-communicable diseases be inherited?

Yes, some have genetic factors.

Do non-communicable diseases require lifelong management?

Often, they require ongoing care.

Do lifestyle choices affect non-communicable diseases?

Yes, factors like diet and exercise are important.

Do communicable diseases always show immediate symptoms?

Not always; some have incubation periods.

Are all non-communicable diseases genetic?

Not all; lifestyle and environment also play roles.

Can good hygiene prevent communicable diseases?

Yes, it's a key preventive measure.

Can communicable diseases lead to epidemics?

Yes, some have the potential to cause outbreaks.

Are non-communicable diseases always chronic?

Mostly, but severity and course can vary.

Can exercise reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases?

Yes, it's beneficial for prevention and management.

What causes communicable diseases?

Infectious agents like viruses and bacteria.

How are communicable diseases spread?

Through direct or indirect contact.

Does smoking increase the risk of non-communicable diseases?

Yes, it's a major risk factor for many.

Are heart diseases non-communicable?

Yes, they are not infectious.

Are antibiotics effective against communicable diseases?

Yes, but only for bacterial infections.

Is isolation effective in controlling communicable diseases?

Yes, it can help prevent spread.

Is handwashing effective against communicable diseases?

Yes, it's a simple yet effective prevention.

Is cancer a non-communicable disease?

Yes, it's not caused by infectious agents.

Can communicable diseases be asymptomatic?

Yes, some people may not show symptoms.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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