Infectious diseases are caused by pathogens such as bacteria , viruses , fungi and parasites. These pathogens can enter the body through the air we breathe, the food and drink we consume or through openings in the skin, such as cuts. As an example, think of a person who has a cold.
That person may cough into his or her hand and then touch a doorknob, thus placing the cold virus on that doorknob.
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The virus may die on the doorknob, but it's also possible that the next person to touch the doorknob will pick it up. If that person then touches food with the unwashed hand and consumes the food, the virus is now inside the body.
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Not every pathogen that enters the body results in illness -- our bodies come equipped with immune systems to fight off foreign agents. However, pathogens have the ability to adapt and evolve much more quickly than the immune system can, which means that pathogens sometimes have the upper hand when it comes to fooling the body's defenses. One way that pathogens evade the immune system is by hiding within the body's healthy cells.
Additionally, some people have weakened immune systems that make it harder for them to resist the effects of an invading pathogen. Non-infectious diseases aren't caused by pathogens and can't be spread person-to-person.
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These diseases are more likely to be caused by a confluence of factors including the environment, a person's lifestyle choices and genetics. For example, skin cancer is usually the result of people spending too much time in the sun without protection from the sun's UV rays, which is considered an environmental factor.
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A condition like heart disease may be caused by a sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet, or it may be caused by a family history of the disease. Though we may not be able to change our genetic code, there are plenty of things that humans can do to prevent noninfectious diseases.
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Trichotillomania is an unusual disease often triggered by stress, depression or a defective gene. People who suffer from this disease tend to pull out the hairs from their head, eyelashes, nose and even crotch. Latah is a disease in which the sufferer falls into a trance and becomes completely unaware of their actions. People who suffer from this ailment are referred to as latahs and in their trance-state will mimic the speech and actions of those around them and obey all commands given to them.
Necrotizing Fasciitis is the disturbing ailment most commonly known as the flesh eating bacteria disease. Affecting the deepest layers of the skin, it is a rare disease that enters the skin via small cuts or bruises.
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As the name suggests, the infection eats through the flesh and causes skin to peel off. In extreme cases, the bacteria can cause complete loss of limbs and, if left untreated, even death.