Communicable Disease & Infection Prevention and Control
COVID-19 has elevated the awareness of the importance of infection prevention and control in the school setting. Ill students cannot successfully learn, ill teachers cannot effectively teach, and ill school administrators and support personnel cannot provide necessary support to the school community. The basics of infection prevention include:
- Staying home (not coming to school or work) when you are ill (seeking medical attention when necessary)
- Cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, materials, and surfaces
- Providing good ventilation and air flow
- Washing hands and using good cough etiquette (using hand sanitizer if water is not available and covering your cough)
- Vaccination against vaccine preventable illnesses
Transmission of Communicable Disease
Knowing how communicable diseases are spread is key to implementing proper infection prevention and control measures. Germs (viruses or bacteria) can be spread through the air (breathing them in), through touch (putting or spraying germs into eyes, mouth, nose, or other mucus membranes), through breaks in the skin or injection such as needle sticks, or through our gastrointestinal system when eating with dirty hands or eating contaminated food or drink. These are referred to as portals of entry.
For an individual to become sick a germ must be present, the germ must enter the body via the correct manner for that germ (portal of entry), enough of the germ must get into the individual’s body to make them sick, and the person must be susceptible to the germ (virus or bacteria).
Methods of Infection Prevention and Control
The Department of Public Instruction recommends schools and school staff teach and reinforce hand and cough hygiene; provide appropriate hand washing or sanitizing resources; use Standard Precautions and Transmission- Based Precautions as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; maximize indoor ventilation, implement regular and effective cleaning and disinfection schedules and practices; promote adherence to vaccination requirements for school entry; and implement procedures to identify and care for students or staff who present to school ill while isolating them until they can be sent home for proper diagnosis, treatment, and rest.
Schools are required to provide Bloodborne Pathogen training to staff they have identified as being at risk for occupational exposure. Staff should have access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).