How Illness Spreads

We all have germs. Some germs are good and some germs are bad. People, animals and the environment always carry bacteria, although most bacteria don’t cause illness and may even help us.

But some germs, such as viruses that can cause coughs and rashes, may cause infections making you and others sick. These germs are called pathogens. Preventing illness means stopping the spread of the germs that can cause illness.

How to Stop Illness from Spreading

Clean your hands

People spread germs by coughing and sneezing or by not washing their hands often enough. Someone else can pick up these germs on their hands. But they won’t get sick unless the germs get into their body. This happens when soiled hands touch the mouth, nose, or eyes. Washing your hands often will help keep you and those around you healthier.

Hands should be cleaned:

  • before eating or drinking or preparing food
  • after using the washroom
  • after coughing or sneezing
  • after handling animals or animal waste
  • after contact with blood and body fluids or items soiled with body fluids
  • after removing protective gloves
  • when hands are soiled or dirty.

Wash hands with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled, after using the washroom and before preparing food. Wet hands first with warm water and add soap. Rub hands for 15 to 20 seconds, being careful to wash between the fingers and around the thumbs. Rinse hands and dry well.

Alcohol based hand rubs are safe and effective hand cleaners as long as they contain more than 60% alcohol. They should only be used if no visible dirt is present on the hands. Apply enough alcohol based hand rubs, about the size of a quarter, onto hands, so that when hands are rubbed together, the alcohol based hand rubs covers all areas of the hands, including nails. Use a rubbing motion to evenly distribute the product until hands feel dry, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Cover your cough or sneeze

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. If one isn’t handy, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.If you sneeze or cough into your hands, the germs can hitchhike to the next surface you touch. If it’s a surface that a lot of other people touch, like a doorknob, the germs can spread to a lot more people.

Clean and Disinfect Surfaces

Soiled items and surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and then disinfected. It’s best to use disposable cleaning cloths that can be discarded in a moisture proof bag.

  • Any soiled surface must be cleaned first to remove dirt and soil by scrubbing with soap and water.
  • After the surface is cleaned, disinfecting will kill many of the germs left behind.

You can use a commercial sanitizer or disinfectant or make your own. If you are using a commercial product, look for a label that says it is a disinfectant or sanitizer. Follow the instructions carefully on how long the product needs to stay on the surface to work.

Make your own sanitizer
Make your own sanitizer for surfaces that can be bleached by mixing a mild solution (1:100) of bleach and water:

  • 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) bleach in 2 cups (500 millilitres) of water.

If you are cleaning and sanitizing after a surface is soiled with body fluids (vomit or diarrhea), use a stronger solution (1:10):

  • ¼ cup (62 millilitres) bleach in 2¼ cups (562 millilitres) of water.
  • The bleach solution should stay on the surface for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Stay home if you’re ill

It is important to stay at home and not go to work or social events when you are sick. By doing so, you may avoid spreading germs to coworkers and friends.

Here are a few tips for special situations:

  • Children should stay home from school and daycare when sick. If They’re Sick Keep them Home provides information for when children should be kept home from school or daycare and for how long.
  • Foodhandlers with diarrhea must not work with food until they are symptom-free for 24 hours
  • If you work in a healthcare facility, you may be asked to stay off work for longer periods during outbreak situations.

Get Immunized

Make sure you and your children get the vaccines recommended by your health care provider at the proper times. Be aware of the routine immunization schedule in order to stay up-to-date with your shots. It is also important to keep records of all needles for the whole family.

Adults need tetanus and diphtheria boosters repeated every 10 years. Additional needles may be needed for protection from illnesses when traveling to other countries.

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