Some diseases are said to be caused by harmful bacteria or viruses, commonly called germs. Infections caused by germs can be mild, such as the common cold, but others can be severe or even life-threatening, such as influenza, food poisoning and strep throat.
Germs can be spread from person to person, such as by a cough, sneeze or handshake. Germs can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched, such as a countertop or a pet. Another way germs are spread is by consuming infected food or drink. Coming in contact with insects or other animals that carry infection can also transmit germs.
That disease can spread is not an unknown datum. What may not be known, however, is that contagion is possible during incubation periods—the period before the person shows symptoms and realizes he is sick. Hence safety precautions must be in place at all times to reduce the risk of spreading disease.
Implementing the basic guidelines given in this booklet can prevent illness from occurring in the first place.
Your body naturally fights germs and environmental toxins. To further safeguard and protect your body from illness, the following precautions help:
Get plenty of sleep.
Eat regular meals consisting of nutritious food.
Maintaining good personal hygiene is an effective way to prevent germs from spreading and to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases.
Wash your hands.
Hand washing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of germs. Wash your hands regularly, particularly after the following activities:
a. Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
b. Using the bathroom
c. Before, during and after food preparation
d. Before and after eating
e. Before and after caring for an ill person
f. Before and after treating a cut or wound
g. After handling garbage
h. After touching an animal, its feed or waste
When washing your hands, use soap and hot water. Scrub your hands thoroughly for at least twenty seconds, then rinse and dry them using a clean towel or air-dry them. Use a towel to turn off the faucet.
Use hand sanitizers.
Hand sanitizers can be used but are not a substitute for hand washing. They are used in addition to hand washing or in a situation where soap and water are not available. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
Limit sharing of personal items.
To avoid spreading germs, don’t share utensils, drinking glasses, cups or other dishes. Also don’t share towels, bedding, combs, brushes, razors or other personal items.
Avoid hand-to-face contact.
Your skin acts as a barrier to germs, but your eyes, nose and mouth are more vulnerable. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face, eating or drinking.
Cover coughs and sneezes.
If you cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your elbow to prevent potential germs traveling through the air.
Avoid ill individuals.
Avoid contact with ill individuals and insist they isolate themselves from others until they have recovered and are symptom free.
Avoid contact with pets and other animals while sick.
If an ill individual pets his cat or dog, for instance, he may leave germs on the pet’s fur that can be transmitted to others who pet the animal later.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Proper hygiene is an important part of preventing the spread of contagious diseases. An area used by a large number of people requires frequent cleaning and sanitizing.
Dirt can be seen and wiped away. But while cleaning a space makes it free from dirt or other impurities, cleaning alone will not remove all germs that may be residing on a surface.
Sanitizing removes what can’t be seen—disease-causing microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. So once a surface has been cleaned, it is important to sanitize any commonly touched surfaces for proper hygiene.
Products to Use for Sanitizing
To sanitize a surface, use a standard disinfectant, such as hydrogen peroxide. Use any concentration between 3% (common household grade) and 7.9%.
Another effective disinfectant is grain alcohol or rubbing alcohol. Use alcohol-based products with at least 70% alcohol. Do not use products with an alcohol content above 90%, as these will evaporate before killing viruses.
You can also use a bleach-and-water solution of 1/12 cup (4 teaspoons) of bleach per 1 quart of cool water (20 ml bleach per 1 liter of cool water). When preparing a bleach solution, always check the bottle’s expiration date to ensure the bleach has not expired.
Note: Never mix bleach with any other cleaning solution or liquid except water.
Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to apply the disinfecting product, including the length of time it should be left on a surface.
Areas to Sanitize
Clean and sanitize frequently touched common surfaces and high-traffic areas in your home and workplace several times a day, depending on frequency of use:
Any other frequently touched common surfaces
Sanitize your bathroom(s):
If you use a vehicle to travel, sanitize the surfaces:
Any other frequently touched surfaces
Handling Illness or Its Symptoms
If you become sick or have symptoms that may indicate you are sick, avoid contact with others and seek proper medical care as necessary.
Isolation means separating yourself so that no germs are passed on to others.
When you are ill or suspect you are ill with a communicable disease, limit contact with others. Do not go to work or out in public if you can avoid it.
At home, you can take measures to help minimize risk to others if you live in shared quarters:
Sleep in a separate room.
Use a different bathroom than others in the household.
Avoid common areas of the home.
Have your laundry cleaned separately from others’ laundry.
Use disposable dishes and utensils.
In case of an infectious disease outbreak in your area, there are additional precautionary actions you should take at home and at work.
Contact with People
During an infectious disease outbreak, avoid physical contact with other people, including the following types of contact:
Because germs can spread through coughs and sneezes, during an outbreak of a disease, it is recommended that you maintain a minimum of six feet (two meters) between yourself and other people.
While communicating with others, eating or engaging in other social situations, maintaining some distance will help keep you and others illness free.
Face masks can help limit the spread of germs when an ill person talks, coughs or sneezes. By wearing these masks, ill persons can help prevent spreading disease to others.
Wear a face mask if you are ill with a communicable disease or suspect you are.
Because you could be contagious without even knowing it or showing any symptoms, always wear a face mask when around the elderly or persons with health problems to reduce the spread of germs.
Also wear a face mask if you are likely to come in contact with infected persons.
A mask can serve another purpose—it can help prevent you from touching your mouth or nose.
For example, if you touch a surface that was contaminated by an ill person who touched it before you, germs will get onto your hands. If you then touch your nose or mouth with your hand, these germs will enter your body and infect you. This is one of the main ways germs can spread.
So a mask can help prevent infection as you are less likely to touch your own mouth and nose when wearing one.
Masks should be changed, minimally, once a day or as soon as they get moist or soiled.
How to Put on a Face Mask
Before putting on a face mask, wash your hands with soap and water.
Inspect the mask to make sure it has no obvious tears or holes that would render it ineffective.
Determine which side of the mask is the front. The colored side of the mask is the side that faces away from you.
Determine which side of the mask is the top. If the mask has a stiff, bendable edge, this is meant to mold to the shape of your nose and is the top.
If your mask has elastic bands that fit over your head, hold the mask on your face while stretching the bands over your head to secure it in place.
Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
Dispose of the face mask after each use. Never reuse it.
Wash your hands thoroughly.
While you can keep your own home clean and sanitized, going out to stores or public spaces increases the risk of contagion.
Commonly touched surfaces such as store counters and gas pumps can be contaminated if an ill person touched them before you.
Wearing disposable gloves can help prevent the transmission of germs. There is a correct way to put on disposable gloves so that they are effective.
How to Put on Disposable Gloves
Before putting on disposable gloves, wash your hands with soap and water.
Pick up a glove by pinching the inside and outside of the cuff. Be careful to touch as little of the outside of the glove as possible. Carefully slide your other hand into the glove.
Do not adjust the glove’s position on your hand until the other glove is on.
Pick up the second glove by pinching the inside and outside of the cuff and put the glove on as above.
Check to make sure there are no visible rips, tears or holes in the gloves. If there are any, remove the gloves, wash your hands and put on new gloves.
Pull each glove cuff toward your wrist to cover as much skin as possible and secure the glove.
If you touch your face, if a glove tears or if you have any doubt about the gloves being dirty or contaminated:
a. Immediately remove the gloves and dispose of them.
b. Wash your hands thoroughly.
c. Put on a fresh pair of gloves.
Dispose of the gloves after each use. Never reuse them.
Wash your hands thoroughly.
Extra Precautions at Home and Work
During an outbreak, clean and sanitize frequently touched common surfaces and high-traffic areas in your home and workplace more often than normal:
Any other frequently touched common surfaces
Be sure to also sanitize frequently touched items and objects:
Personal electronic devices
Any other frequently touched items and objects
Sanitize your bathroom, kitchen and vehicle more frequently than usual.
Find directions on any specific disinfectant to use for the type of outbreak. You may need to use a product that kills a specific bacteria or virus.
When Leaving and Returning to Your Home
If there is an outbreak in your area, leave your home only for essential needs or as authorized by local regulations.
If you must leave your home, wear a face mask and disposable gloves.
Maintain distance from others in public areas.
Before re-entering your home, do the following:
a. Take your shoes off and leave them outside, or spray them with a disinfectant.
b. Remove and discard the mask and disposable gloves.
c. With a fresh pair of gloves, disinfect any items you used when you were out—keys, credit cards, wallet, etc.
Discard the gloves.
Wash your hands thoroughly.
Adherence to Local Regulations and Guidelines
If authorities issue local regulations, precautions or procedures to prevent the spread of a communicable disease, follow these while they are in place.
By following the guidelines and precautions in this booklet, you can help prevent the spread of illness and maintain a healthy environment.
The provided information is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have.
bacteria: very small organisms consisting of one cell that can be seen only through a microscope. Bacteria exist almost everywhere, including in and on the human body. Some are helpful, such as bacteria that aid in digestion. Others can have harmful effects, such as those causing tooth decay or diseases.
bleach: a strong chemical used for cleaning that kills harmful bacteria and germs.
communicable: able to be passed from one person to another person.
contagious: able to be passed from one person to another, especially through physical contact or through the air.
disinfectant: a chemical liquid that kills bacteria and other microscopic organisms.
food poisoning: an illness caused by eating food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria.
grain alcohol: a type of alcohol that is made from fermented grain. It is a colorless liquid with a sharp smell that has many uses, including killing bacteria and some viruses.
hydrogen peroxide: a watery chemical compound used to kill disease-causing microscopic organisms and also as a bleach to lighten or remove the color from something.
hygiene: clean or healthy practices that are necessary for preservation of good health.
incubation: the phase in the development of a disease between the time someone is infected and the time the first symptoms of the disease appear.
infectious: contagious and able to be passed from one person to another.
isolate: completely separate someone with a disease from other people so that the disease will not spread.
sanitizer: a substance or preparation for killing disease-causing microscopic organisms.
soap: a substance used for washing or cleansing purposes. Solid or liquid, it should be made of organic substances that, when mixed with water, make a solution that then takes unwanted substances into the solution, making it possible to rinse them away, resulting in a clean product.
strep throat: an infection of the throat caused by a type of bacteria called streptococcus. Strep throat causes a sore throat, fever and weakness.
symptom: a change in the body indicating that someone has an illness.
virus: an infectious source of disease in the body that is too small to be seen through a regular microscope. Viruses can infect human beings with the common cold or more serious diseases.
Download and print these signs for your home and/or essential business.