How infections are spread
Germs can be spread in several ways and once we understand how, we can take actions to stop them from spreading further. The precautions that can be taken to stop the spread of infection depends on the germ. So how can infections be spread?
Airborne or droplet spread
Respiratory infections can spread easily between people via sneezing, coughing, singing, and even talking which may spread respiratory droplets (aerosols) from an infected person to someone nearby.
Airborne infections can spread via small respiratory particles. Droplets from the mouth or nose may also contaminate hands, cups, toys or other items and spread to those who may use or touch them, particularly if they then touch their nose or mouth. The common cold, COVID-19, flu and whooping cough can be spread in this way.
Further guidance on respiratory hygiene for teachers, along with suggested activities to support students to embed these, are included in the e-Bug respiratory hygiene resources. For more information please visit Managing specific infectious diseases.
Direct contact spread
Some infections can be spread by direct contact with the infected area to another person’s body, or via contact with a contaminated surface. Examples of infections of the skin, mouth and eye that are spread in this way are scabies and headlice.
Can spread from person to person when infected faeces or vomit are transferred to the mouth either directly or from contaminated food, water, or objects such as toys, door handles or toilet flush handles. Examples of infections spread in this way include hepatitis A, Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia Coli (STEC), and norovirus.
Blood borne viruses
Are viruses that some people carry in their blood and can be spread from one person to another by contact with infected blood or body fluids, for example, while attending to a bleeding person or injury with a used needle. Examples of infections spread in this way are hepatitis Band human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Measures can be taken to prevent and control infections that spread via direct contact with a person or indirectly from the person’s immediate environment (including equipment). This includes precautions such as cleaning and safe management of the environment.
Useful resources for teachers:
- Health protection in children and young people settings, including education - which offers a practical guide for staff on managing cases of infectious diseases in children and young people settings
- Managing specific infectious diseases: A to Z
- e-bug.eu - school resources and e-learning to support teaching about infections and prevention