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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!.

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infection prevention in the classroom setting

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


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.

what is an infectious disease
What is an Infectious Disease?


An infection occurs when microorganisms, or germs, enter and multiply in the body.

Infectious Disease

An infectious disease occurs when the infection damages the body and produces signs and symptoms indicating the body is unhealthy.

Infectious Agent

Infectious agents are microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, and parasites that can cause infectious disease.

infectious disease examples
Infectious Disease Examples

Common Cold




Staph / Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Head lice




Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Hepatitis A, B, and C

how are infectious diseases spread
How Are Infectious Diseases Spread?

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

Indirect transmission

Airborne transmission

direct transmission
Direct Transmission

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

Infectious droplets

during coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, and spitting

(spread is limited to approximately three feet)

Example: Cold, Influenza

indirect transmission
Indirect Transmission

Infectious diseases are spread indirectly through vehicles and vectors.

Vehicle-borne transmission

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.

Vector-borne transmission

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
Airborne Transmission

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.

importance of hand hygiene
Importance of Hand Hygiene

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:


Clean water


proper handwashing technique
Proper Handwashing Technique

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.

easy to miss areas
Easy to Miss Areas

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. /

frequently missed areas
Frequently Missed Areas /

when to wash hands
When to Wash Hands

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

when to wash hands 2
When to Wash Hands (2)

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

waterless alcohol based hand sanitizer
Waterless Alcohol-basedHand Sanitizer

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


waterless alcohol based hand sanitizer continued
Waterless Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizer Continued

Proper Technique

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.


Handwashing Compliance

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

classroom handwashing activity ideas
Classroom HandwashingActivity Ideas

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.

other learning activities
Other Learning Activities

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.

additional activities material
Additional Activities & Material

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

clean classroom environment
Clean Classroom Environment

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.

general infection prevention
General Infection Prevention
  • Encourage children, teachers, and all school personnel to wash hands frequently using soap and water for 15-20 seconds and to assist children as needed.
  • Substitute alcohol-based hand sanitizer when clean water and soap are unavailable.
  • Promote appropriate respiratory etiquette: Cover coughs and sneezes with tissue. Throw away tissues immediately and use hand hygiene. If a tissue is not available, sneeze or cough into the elbow or upper sleeve.

Following general infection prevention measures and maintaining personal hygiene reduces the spread of infectious diseases in a school setting.

general infection prevention 2
General Infection Prevention (2)

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.

general infection prevention 3
General Infection Prevention (3)

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.

additional considerations
Additional Considerations

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


The End

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.

contact information
Contact Information

USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness

Texas A&M Health Science Center

School of Rural Public Health

1266 TAMU

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.