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Health and Safety: Teaching Tools

Infectious Diseases

Infectious Diseases

Many infectious diseases can spread from contact between people through various types of personal contact.

Athlete's foot ? can be caught by sharing footwear. (Note: hair lice, minor rashes, etc. can be caused by close contact or by sharing personal items or clothing).

Eye infections ? can spread through sharing makeup applicators, brushes and wipes, or by hand to hand contact.

Infectious Diseases - Examples

Colds or Flu ? can spread through close personal contact (hand to hand, then the hand is placed near mouth, nose or eye).

AIDS (or Hepatitis) ? can spread from intimate contact between people or from contact with used needles. These diseases are very serious, causing serious ill health and possibly death.


It is sometimes hard to know if someone is sick or getting sick. In order to reduce the chances of spreading "germs" it might be wise to follow this advice:

Eating or Drinking ? use your own utensils, glasses or straws when sharing food or drinks.

Infectious Diseases - Advice on Sharing

Clothing or Shoes ? sometimes you would like to share clothing or shoes, but they should be cleaned before they are shared. Personal items like swimsuits, gym shorts, and running shoes should always be clean if shared.

Makeup ? if you must share personal makeup, use disposable applicators rather than sharing the same makeup applicator.

Hairbrushes ? use your own hairbrush - since it is very easy to spread hair lice.

Drama or Dance Costumes ? if possible, clean costumes if they will be shared.

Musical Instruments ? mouthpieces which could be shared can be a source of contamination due to saliva which can enter during performances. A procedure for sanitizing musical instruments should be available and explained to students. Whenever possible, students should supply their own mouthpieces rather than sharing these.

When you work you may encounter many possible sources which could lead to infections or illness.

Infectious Diseases - Beware of Sources

Sick Patients ? People who are ill such as patients with Influenza or Pneumonia can be infectious.

Food or Waste ? Working with raw meat (hamburger or chicken) or surfaces that have been touched by its juices, puts you at risk of contact with bacteria like E.coli or Salmonella ? which can cause serious illness. Also if you work in housekeeping, in parks or in public places, you may encounter wastes which are infectious (e.g. dirty diapers).

Infectious Diseases - Needles

Dirty Needles ? If you work anywhere where needles are used or discarded - such as in hospitals or cleaning up garbage you should consider that any needle could be contaminated with blood and could carry dangerous viruses like AIDS and Hepatitis.


You may encounter used needles almost anywhere, including your own neighbourhoods. You may also encounter these in friends' homes (if someone in the family is taking medication by needle such as a diabetic) or while volunteering or working in a hospital, handling waste at any public facility, including parks, fast food restaurants, etc.

Infectious Diseases - Needlestick Injuries

You must be very careful and avoid touching needles. Notify a trained adult (such as a nurse or a Public Health official) to properly dispose of these items. Throwing needles in the garbage is a very bad idea since this is a common way that people are "stuck". Always handle garbage with heavy protective gloves because there could be sharp materials inside. Always assume that a needle is contaminated with blood or toxic chemicals and that touching them could put you at risk of serious life-threatening disease. If you do get stuck, you must get first aid immediately and report the injury.


The number one solution to preventing infections is washing your hands with hot water and soap, which can kill almost all "germs". The risk of spreading germs (or getting sick) can be reduced through the simple act of washing hands frequently. This is especially true in the case of stomach flus, colds and Influenza. Most people don't do this properly unless they work around food or they work with infectious people all day (as nurses or doctors do). Can you recall how a surgeon on TV scrubs up before an operation? They are washing their hands to avoid spreading microbes to their patients, even though they will be putting gloves on. This is very similar to "properly washing your hands".

Individuals should always wash their hands after:

Infectious Diseases - Washing Hands

  • using the washroom,
  • visiting sick "infectious" people,
  • being outdoors, or
  • handling animals.

These are all places where "germs" can be picked up and spread to others.

While hand sanitizers are gaining popularity, they do contain chemicals that could irritate and dry skin. They should only be used when washing hands is not feasible.

When hands may be contaminated and have not been washed, care should be taken to avoid touching your face - particularly the eyes, nose and mouth where infection is more likely to take hold.

Basic tips for properly washing hands are:

Infectious Diseases - Handwashing Tips

USE very warm water.
WET hands and use soap.
SCRUB nails with a nailbrush.
WASH for 20 seconds.
RINSE thoroughly and dry with a clean towel or hot-air dryer.

Antibacterial soaps are popular but typically any soap and a good washing routine will effectively remove most "germs". Be sure to wash your hands properly after using the washroom. It is very important in reducing disease transmission of "stomach flus" and other gastrointestinal infections. There is example evidence that people can rapidly be infected with E.coli from hand-to-hand contact.

Routine Practices

To reduce illness from infections when working with sick people:

Infectious Diseases - Universal Precautions

COVER cuts with bandages and wear gloves for added protection ? (cuts are very vulnerable to infection).
WASH hands frequently.
KEEP your hands away from your eyes, nose or mouth.
ASSUME that contact with any human body fluid is infectious.
CONTACT your supervisor if injury (such as a getting stuck by a needle) or illness occurs.


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