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Managing any contagious infectious disease outbreak involves breaking the chain of transmission from those who are infected with the pathogen to those who are not. Not all pathogens, however, are equal in their contagiousness, and considerable variation exists.
The viral disease measles, for example, is considered to be one of the most contagious human diseases. Its high rate of contagion is driven by 2 attributes: the ability to spread through the air via small particles (ie, airborne transmission) and the fact that one of the symptoms of measles is coughing, an effective means of expelling those particles. On average, a person infected with measles can infect 15 other people through the course of his or her illness. Diseases like tetanus and anthrax, on the other hand, are not contagious at all because they lack the ability to spread between humans. In between these 2 extremes lie all the other infectious diseases.