Communicable Disease & Epidemiology

Preventing Illness

Protecting Yourself from Illness: General Information & Helpful Tips

Sources of Infection

Communicable diseases are illnesses caused by germs, such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites and are spread by an infected person, animal or object to another person. In order to know how to prevent illness, it is important to know how disease is spread. The following are four principle sources of infection.

Diseases spread by contact with human stool. These diseases are generally characterized by upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. Examples include infections with giardia, rotavirus, hepatitis A, salmonella, norovirus (Norwalk-like virus) and campylobacter.

Diseases spread by droplets from the nose, throat and mouth. Examples include the common cold, chicken pox, influenza, measles and pertussis (whooping cough).

Body Fluids
Diseases spread by direct contact with body fluids, such as blood, urine, saliva or vomit. Examples include hepatitis B, HIV and pinkeye.

Person-to-person contact/contact with contaminated items
Diseases spread by direct contact with infected skin or contact with contaminated objects such as toys, clothing, bedding etc. Examples include ringworm, scabies and lice.

Helpful Tips to Keep You and Your Family Healthy


Hand washing is the mechanical removal of infectious agents. Hand washing should be done using warm water and liquid soap. Rub hands together for at least 15 seconds making sure to scrub the backs of hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. Rinse well under warm water and use a paper towel to dry your hands. Do not dry hands with a cloth towel as this may harbor bacteria. Use hand lotion to prevent drying and cracking of skin, where germs can hide.

It is important to wash your hands at the following times:
Starting work Eating or drinking
Preparing food Preparing food
Serving food Visiting the restroom
Eating Assisting a child in restroom
Dressing an injury Dressing an injury
Taking a medication Coughing or sneezing
  Wiping a child’s nose
  Changing diapers

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough

Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs can live for a long time (some can live for 2 hours or more) on surfaces like doorknobs, desks, and tables.

Stay home when you are sick and check with a health care provider when needed

When you are sick or have flu symptoms, stay home, get plenty of rest, and check with a health care provider as needed. Your employer may need a doctor’s note for an excused absence. Remember: Keeping your distance from others may protect them from getting sick. Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches, and
  • nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, (much more common among children than adults).

Practice Good Health Habits

Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Practicing healthy habits will help you stay healthy during flu season and all year long.

Source: CDC

Healthy Diaper Changing Habits

Since many disease causing organisms are transmitted via human stool, it is important to maintain good hygienic practices when changing a baby’s diaper. Proper diaper disposal, surface cleansing and hand washing are the most effective means to prevent the spread of infection. Once the diaper is removed, soiled diapers should be placed in a plastic bag or plastic lined receptacle after they are removed. Wash the child’s hands. Disinfect the diaper changing area with sanitizing solution and then wash your hands.

Safe Food Preparation

Sanitary conditions are important and should be stressed wherever food is prepared or eaten. General sanitation rules include washing hands before preparing food. Wash and sanitize food contact surfaces (cutting boards, prep tables, utensils, etc.) between each use to prevent cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful organisms from one food product to another by means of a non-food surface such as utensils, equipment, dishes, cutting boards and human hands. Wash, rinse and sanitize dishes. Wash hands frequently when preparing or serving food. Cuts and burns should be protected with a non-absorbent covering such as a glove or a finger cot.

Cleaning & Sanitizing

Cleaning is the removal of physical debris. Sanitizing is the killing of disease-causing organisms. Both are important in preventing illness. You should use an approved chemical sanitizer to kill bacteria. We recommend diluted bleach because it is readily available and inexpensive. Read and follow the instructions for diluting with water and contact time. Never mix bleach with cleaners containing ammonia; they combine to form harmful vapors.

How to Handle Body Fluids

Some germs are spread through body fluids. Intestinal tract infections are spread through the stool. Respiratory tract infections spread through coughs, sneeze and runny noses. Therefore, it is important to handle body fluids in a way which prevents the spread of illness. Steps should be followed to prevent contact with and the spread of disease-causing organisms when cleaning up blood, vomit or other body fluids. These steps include wearing gloves and blot up the spill. Disinfect the area with a sanitizing solution of ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Disinfect any items used during the sanitizing process (brushes, mops, pails etc.). Dispose of gloves and rags that were used and wash hands.

Cleaning Items Around the House

Individual bedding should be washed at least weekly. Other surfaces should be cleaned between use or daily, depending on the item. Carpets can be difficult to keep clean. Carpets that have been contaminated (eg. with vomit or urine) are considered high risk for transmitting germs even if they have been cleaned thoroughly, until they are completely dry.

Cleaning Absorbent Materials

When cleaning absorbent materials such as carpeting, rugs and sofas, first blot up the spill. Spray sanitizing shampoo on the surface. Use a brush to scrub the spill. Allow the shampoo to air dry and vacuum. Soak the brush in sanitizing solution and rinse with warm water. Another option would be to sprinkle sanitizing powder on the spill, let the powder dry and vacuum.

Toys & Play Equipment

Toys are especially challenging because of the varying materials and textures involved.

  • Cleaning non-absorbent toys When cleaning non-absorbent toys such as blocks or plastic toys, wash them with soap and water. Rinse in a dilute (1:10 to 1:100) bleach solution. Air dry.
  • Cleaning absorbent toys. When cleaning absorbent toys such as stuffed animals or play clothes, wash them in a washing machine. Bleach should be used if possible. Air dry or machine dry.
  • Cleaning Bath toys. Bath toys include any toy used in the bathtub that may hold stagnant water in it. When cleaning a bath toy squeeze out the water that may be inside the toys. The inside of the toys should be sanitized with the same solution that is used in the non-absorbent toys and the same procedure should be followed. These toys should be avoided if possible.