Infection Prevention in the Classroom Setting. USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health. Welcome!.
USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness at
Texas A&M Health Science Center
School of Rural Public Health
Germs can spread rapidly in a classroom setting, so staying informed and active to protect yourself and students from infectious diseases is essential. Increased awareness will minimize the risk of infection, prevent disease transmission, and preserve a healthy and safe classroom environment.
The USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health designed this train-the-trainer activity for teachers and their students. It provides information , ideas, and learning activities for the classroom to help keep children healthy and prevent the spread of infection in the classroom setting.
An infection occurs when microorganisms, or germs, enter and multiply in the body.
An infectious disease occurs when the infection damages the body and produces signs and symptoms indicating the body is unhealthy.
Infectious agents are microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, and parasites that can cause infectious disease.
Staph / Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Hepatitis A, B, and C
Understanding how infectious diseases are spread is important for minimizing the risk of infection and preventing disease transmission.
Three ways in which infectious diseases can be transmitted:
Direct transmission occurs when an infectious agent is transferred directly into the body such as through the eyes, nose, mouth, or through a break in the skin such as a cut on the finger. Infectious agents are spread directly in the following ways:
through physical contact including touching, biting, hugging, or kissing
Example: MRSA, Hepatitis
through physical contact, bites, and scratches
Example: Ringworm, Rabies
during coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, and spitting
(spread is limited to approximately three feet)
Example: Cold, Influenza
Infectious diseases are spread indirectly through vehicles and vectors.
Some infectious agents can linger on inanimate objects, such as desks, chairs, computer keyboards, doorknobs, faucets, toys, eating utensils, or clothing.
Example: Touching a pencil used by a person infected with the flu and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth before performing hand hygiene.
Other vehicles include food, water, and biological products such as blood and body fluids.
Example: Eating peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella, or pepperoni contaminated with E. coli.
Common vectors include insects, such as mosquitoes, ticks, and lice.
Example: Becoming infected with West Nile Virus as a result of being bittenby an infected mosquito, or sharing a comb with someone who has head lice.
Airborne transmission is the spread of infectious agents as aerosols that usually enter the respiratory tract. Unlike the infectious droplets, these tiny particles have the ability to remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and travel long distances.
Tuberculosis, chicken pox, and the measles are examples
of infectious diseases spread by airborne particles.
Example: An individual becomes infected with Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) by inhaling infectious
airborne particles while on a crowded bus.
Hand hygiene, including handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer, is extremely important in preventing infectious disease transmission in a classroom environment.
Many people tend to minimize the significance of hand hygiene, often forgetting or eliminating hand washing due to busy schedules, lack of available soap and water, and inconvenience, but this is the single most important practice to prevent the spread of infectious disease. It is also the best method to protect children from infection in the classroom setting.
Three necessary components of proper handwashing include:
Wet hands with clean warm water.
Apply soap and rub hands together to create a lather.
Scrub all surfaces of the hands including the palms, back of hands, wrists, between fingers, and under fingernails.
Continue washing hands for 20 seconds, about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
Rinse hands well to remove all soap.
Dry hands completely with a towel or air dryer.
If available, use a towel to turn off the faucet and open the door to avoid recontamination.
Using proper technique is essential to sanitizing hands effectively. Inadequate handwashing causes significant areas of the hands to be missed. All areas of the fingers, hands, and wrists must be covered during hand hygiene.
By imagining the rapid method generally used when washing hands, it is easy to understand which places are most frequently ignored. Insufficient handwashing often involves rubbing the palms together with soap and water and possibly a quick swipe across the back of each hand. This is clearly depicted in the following diagram of frequently missed areas during handwashing.
After blowing the nose, sneezing, or coughing
After going to the bathroom
After contact with blood or body fluids, such as saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, or vomit
After PE or playing sports
After playing outside at recess
After handling garbage or waste
When hands appear soiled
Before preparing medicine or handling contact lenses
Before preparing, serving, or handling food
Before eating lunch or snacks
Frequently when sick or after contact with others who are sick
Before and after touching a cut or wound
Before and after touching the eyes, nose, or mouth
After handling animals, animal waste, or their belongings, such as toys or a leash
After changing a diaper
When to Use
Substitute when soap and water are not available.
Ineffective for cleaning hands that are visibly dirty.
Do not substitute when handling or preparing food.
Do not overuse; traditional handwashing is best.
Supervise children while they use hand sanitizer.
Two necessary components
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Apply small amount of hand sanitizer to the palm.
Rub hands together covering all surfaces, much like when washing hands with soap and water.
Rub until hand sanitizer is absorbed completely and hands become dry.
Comparison of handwashing compliance between middle school students and high school students and male and female students.
Am J Infect Control 1997; 25: 424-5
Practice washing hands properly with students. Have them identify or write a song, poem, or saying that they can use when washing hands that lasts 20 seconds.
Have a contest for students to create posters and fliers with handwashing facts that can be posted bathroom stalls or published in the school newspaper or newsletter.
Use fluorescent hand lotion to test hand washing effectiveness and to observe how germs spread between hands, surfaces, pens, etc.
Swab high-traffic surfaces and culture on agar in a Petri dish or touch fingers to the agar and then incubate to demonstrate the growth of microorganisms.
Share infection prevention training with parents at parent-teacher meetings to disseminate education to the home.
Please take a moment to explore the following online resources for helpful teaching materials about infection prevention. Some of the links include suggestions for infection prevention related lesson plans, a classroom experiment, printable classroom activity sheets, and other fun learning activities for students.
HANDWASHING PROJECT IDEASMultidisciplinary activities for teachers and students to promote handwashing
HAND HYGIENE EXPERIMENTClassroom science experiment to demonstrate persistence of bacteria and proper handwashing technique
Maintaining a clean classroom environment reduces the presence of germs and the spread of infectious diseases, and therefore, protects the health of students, teachers, school staff, and parents.
Following general infection prevention measures and maintaining personal hygiene reduces the spread of infectious diseases in a school setting.
Teach children to properly dispose of used tissues.
Provide tissues and trash receptacles in classrooms and on school buses.
Advise parents to keep sick children home from school.
Remain at home when ill and encourage others to do the same.
Avoid close contact (less than 3 feet of space) with those who are sick.
Maintain and promote good personal hygiene; bathe and wash hands regularly.
Discourage touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Maintain a clean classroom environment.
Ensure commonly used areas such as door handles, eating surfaces, and desks are clean and disinfected.
Keep open wounds clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
Avoid contact with other people’s wounds and bandages.
Discourage sharing eating utensils, glassware, or personal items such as toothbrushes, combs, razors, towels, clothing or other items that come into contact with bare skin.
Clean shared sports equipment with antiseptic before each use or use a cloth or a towel as a barrier between the skin and the equipment.
Avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has a Staph infection.
Encourage a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and adequate sleep.
The incorporation of animals into the classroom environment can provide many beneficial learning experiences for children. It is important to keep in mind the risks of Zoonotic Diseases, or those that are transmissible from animals to humans.
The following considerations are important when dealing with
animals in a classroom:
Always wash hands very thoroughly after touching animals or their belongings
Ensure animals have current vaccinations and receive annual veterinary exams
Bathe animals regularly
Avoid contact with animal waste or food
Only handle a new animal with permission and supervision
Teach children the proper way to handle the animal
This concludes the train-the-trainer activity, “Infection Prevention in the Classroom Setting.” We hope you have enjoyed this presentation and will utilize and share this information with your schools to help keep children healthy and prevent the spread of infection in the classroom setting.
USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness
Texas A&M Health Science Center
School of Rural Public Health
College Station, Texas 77843-1266
Phone: (979) 845-2387
The CDC-funded Centers for Public Health Preparedness are a national network of academic institutions working in collaboration with state and local public health departments and other community partners to provide life-long learning opportunities to the public health workforce in order to handle the next public health crisis.