To infect is to spread an illness to another person. If you sneeze on your friend, you may inadvertently infect her with your germs.
When a disease moves from person to person, it infects them. Most diseases only spread within one species, although there are some, like avian flu, that can infect both humans and other animals. Another way to infect someone is to deeply affect them with an idea or emotion: "His enthusiasm for music infects the class with excitement." The Latin root, inficere, means "to spoil or stain" and "to dip into."