Communicable Diseases

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics have been used for the past 70 years to treat illnesses and prevent thousands of deaths. However, some antibiotics are no longer as effective at killing bacteria and treating illnesses. This is known as Antimicrobial Resistance or Antibiotic Resistance.

Antibiotics will not cure a cold or the flu. They are also not appropriate for bronchitis, some ear infections or sinus infections.

Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can kill helpful bacteria in the body and increase your risk for serious infections.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

  • Do not share your medications.
  • Do not ask for antibiotics. Your doctor will prescribe what is appropriate. Doctors often feel pressure from patients to give them what they want, even if it is not beneficial.
  • Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections such as:
    • Colds or flu
    • Most coughs and bronchitis
    • Sore throats
    • Runny noses
  • ALWAYS finish your prescription! Take medication as directed, even if you feel better.

Learn more about Antibiotic Resistance.

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COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is a very contagious disease caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. It most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, a flu or pneumonia.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill. Some people including those with minor or no symptoms may suffer from post-COVID conditions, or "long COVID." Older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 6 months and older and boosters for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible.

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Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Can Hepatitis A be prevented?

Yes. The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is by getting vaccinated. Experts recommend the vaccine for all children, and people with certain risk factors and medical conditions. The vaccine is also recommended for travelers to certain international countries, even if travel occurs for short times or on closed resorts.

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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

Without treatment, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can make a person very sick and even cause death. Learning the basics about HIV can keep you healthy and prevent transmission.

HIV can be transmitted by:

  • Sexual contact
  • Sharing needles to inject drugs
  • Mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding

HIV is NOT transmitted by:

  • Air or water
  • Saliva, sweat, tears or closed-mouth kissing
  • Insects or pets
  • Sharing toilets, food or drinks

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Measles Information

The amount of measles cases in the US has been extremely low in the last 30 years due to an effective two-dose anti-measles vaccination program, but recently there have been an increasing number of cases nationwide. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is recommending assessment of patients and vaccination of patients lacking evidence of immunity.

For Medical Facilities

Any suspected case of measles should be immediately reported to the local health department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800.

Should a patient call with a concern that they have measles? They should be advised to avoid all public activities until they can be evaluated and arrangements should be made to have them isolated, preferably in an Emergency Department.

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Mpox is a rare disease caused by infection with the mpox virus, which can make people sick. Symptoms may include a rash, resembling pimples or blisters, often preceded by flu-like illness. Overall illness typically lasts 2 - 4 weeks. While some people experience mild symptoms, others may experience severe pain. Mpox can be spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact.


The CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself from getting mpox:

  1. Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox.
  2. Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with mpox has used.
  3. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  4. Get vaccinated.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles, also known as herpes zoster, in their lifetime. An estimated 1 million people in the country get shingles each year. Children can get shingles, although your risk increases as you get older. You can get shingles even if you previously had chickenpox, and it's possible to get shingles more than once.

Shingles symptoms include a painful rash that blisters and scabs over in 7 - 10 days and can take up to 4 weeks to heal. Other symptoms include fever, headache and generally feeling ill. The shingles vaccine is the only way to protect against shingles.

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Contact Information

Public Health
25 Meade Street
Worcester, MA 01610

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Phone: 508-799-8531
Fax: 508-799-8572
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To request a non-emergency service or report an issue, please contact Worcester 311.

In the event of a health emergency, please call 911.

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