Preventing the spread of illness

Premal Bhatt - Contributing Columnist

Following the recent outbreak of contagious rash in the Madison-Plains school district and as flu season has officially begun, it has never been more important for us to practice healthy habits as we work together to prevent the spread of illness.

Life never stops for anyone, especially parents as they are relied upon to stay healthy and keep their children healthy. Simple reminders can help ensure busy lives are not interrupted for too long and other people aren’t impacted.

Flu season is officially here, which means it is time for flu shots at your local health department. Beyond you and your child getting your seasonal influenza vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these preventive actions to prevent the flu and prevent classmates, teachers, co-workers, and family members from getting the flu and other infectious illness:

• Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after use and wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve, not your hand.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.

Staying home when sick becomes especially difficult with the stresses and responsibilities of life. They don’t stop, so it often becomes difficult to find the time to take a day off. However, staying home from work or staying home with your child can be the difference in helping to prevent the spread of flu other infectious diseases or cases such as a contagious rash. The rest will allow a quicker return to full productivity. Your child’s school or your work will appreciate you at full strength and helping to not decrease the productivity of fellow classmates or co-workers.

If you’re not sure when to keep your child at home from school, consult your physician, who is the only one able to give a diagnosis or look to your local health department or your child’s school nurse for additional resources. Healthy provides a list of conditions to keep your child home from school:

• Diarrhea or stools that contain blood or mucus

• An illness that caused vomiting two or more times during the previous 24 hours, unless the vomiting is known to be caused by a condition that’s not contagious

• Mouth sores with drooling, unless caused by a noncontagious condition

• Impetigo — until 24 hours after treatment has been started; be sure to consult your doctor when a rash starts like this.

• Scabies (an itchy skin condition caused by mites) until after treatment has been given; be sure to consult your doctor when a rash starts like this.

• Conditions that suggest the possible presence of a more serious illness, including a fever, sluggishness, persistent crying, irritability, or difficulty breathing; a severe abnormal behavior

Encourage your child to wash his/her hands with soap and warm water, often. At school utilize hand sanitizers in between hand washing to further the prevention of illness spread.

Make sure surfaces are cleaned, especially those that come in contact with persons that are ill. Surfaces and objects should be cleaned with EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs. The label will tell you if the cleaner is EPA-approved. If one is not available, the CDC suggests simply adding one tablespoon of bleach to four cups of water.

Cleaning and disinfecting also requires differentiating between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing.

According to the CDC, “Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.”

Those cleaning practices, as well as targeting surfaces and objects touched often and doing routine cleaning and disinfecting, flu and other disease can be stopped in its tracks before it can begin spreading.

We can all do our part to make sure our peers, loved ones, and selves remain healthy. And our part has the potential for making an enormous impact.

Premal Bhatt

Contributing Columnist

Premal Bhatt, MPH, is the epidemiologist at Madison County-London City Health District and can be reached at 740-852-3065, ext. 1520.

Premal Bhatt, MPH, is the epidemiologist at Madison County-London City Health District and can be reached at 740-852-3065, ext. 1520.