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Communicable Diseases

Communicable Disease & Infection Prevention and Control

COVID-19 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

The CDC has evidence-based guidance for preventing the spread of infections in K-12 schools. The guidance includes everyday actions that schools can take to prevent and control the spread of respiratory and stomach viruses and illnesses, such as influenza and norovirus, and bacterial illness, such as strep throat. This guidance is designed to maximize school attendance and its benefits for all students, while also preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Being in school provides many benefits including ongoing learning and social and emotional development.

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).

Communicable Diseases Resources
Immunization Resources
Sample Family Notification Letters
Hand/Respiratory Hygiene and Cough Etiquette

The number one way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases is frequent and thorough hand washing using soap and water or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (soap and water are preferred when hands are visibly dirty). When done correctly, hand washing will help students, school staff and visitors avoid spreading and receiving germs.

Everyone should engage in respiratory hygiene to decrease the risk of spreading respiratory illnesses by covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing the of use of tissues in a wastebasket. Provide instructional signage or handouts at throughout the school and in the school health office.

Respiratory hygiene also has an environmental component, so as space permits, separate those students with respiratory symptoms from others as soon as possible in the health office. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection
For questions about this information, contact Louise Wilson (608) 266-8857