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Preventing Infectious Diseases

Discusses ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and to avoid pathogens.

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Preventing Infectious Diseases

What is this girl doing to prevent the spread of the flu?

Notice how this girl is covering her nose and mouth with a tissue as she sneezes. This is a good habit that helps prevent her from passing on the flu virus to other people. Notice she is also staying home and resting instead of going out and possibly infecting others with her illness.

Preventing Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are diseases that spread from person to person. They are caused by pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or fungi. What can you do to avoid infectious diseases? Eating right and getting plenty of sleep are a good start. These habits will help keep your immune system healthy. With a healthy immune system, you will be able to fight off many pathogens. The next best way is to avoid pathogens. Though this is difficult, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure to pathogens.

Here are the ten best ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

  1. Wash your hands frequently.
  2. Don't share personal items.
  3. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  4. Get vaccinated.
  5. Use safe cooking practices.
  6. Be a smart traveler.
  7. Practice safe sex.
  8. Don’t pick your nose (or your mouth or eyes either).
  9. Exercise caution with animals.
  10. Watch the news, and be aware of disease outbreaks.

Avoiding Pathogens

You can also take steps to avoid pathogens in the first place. The best way to avoid pathogens is to wash your hands often. You should wash your hands after using the bathroom or handling raw meat or fish. You should also wash your hands before eating or preparing food. In addition, you should also wash the food that your eat, and the utensils and countertop where food is prepared. In addition, you should wash your hands after being around sick people. The correct way to wash your hands is demonstrated below (Figure below). If soap and water aren’t available, use some hand sanitizer.

Proper hand washing helps prevent the spread of pathogens

This picture shows the proper way to wash your hands. Frequent hand washing helps prevent the spread of pathogens.

The best way to prevent diseases spread by vectors is to avoid contact with the vectors. Recall that a vector is an organism that carries pathogens from one person or animal to another. For example, ticks and mosquitoes are vectors, so you should wear long sleeves and long pants when appropriate to avoid tick and mosquito bites. Using insect repellent can also reduce your risk of insect bites.

Many infectious diseases can be prevented with vaccinations. Immunization can drastically reduce your chances of contracting many diseases. You will read more about vaccinations in another concept. Vaccinations can help prevent measles, mumps, chicken pox, and several other diseases.

If you do develop an infectious disease, try to avoid infecting others. Stay home from school until you are well. Also, take steps to keep your germs to yourself. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands often to avoid spreading pathogens to other people. Don't go to work or school if you're vomiting, have diarrhea or are running a fever (and if you are, drink plenty of fluids). Also, to avoid infectious diseases, don't share personal items; use your own toothbrush, comb, and razor. And avoid sharing drinking glasses or dining utensils.

Watching the news will allow you to make informed decisions. If an outbreak of bad beef due to a bacterial infection is in the news, don't buy beef for a while. If tomatoes are making people sick, don't eat tomatoes until the outbreak is over. If a place has an unhealthy water supply, boil the water or drink bottled water. Local news can tell you of restaurants to avoid due to unhealthy conditions. And so on.


  • A healthy lifestyle and frequent hand washing can help reduce your risk of infectious diseases.
  • To avoid infecting others when you are sick, stay home from school, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands often.

Explore More

Use the resources below to answer the questions that follow.

Explore More I

  • Preventing the Spread of Disease
  1. What is a communicable disease?
  2. What are some pathways by which germs can pass from one person to another person?

Explore More II

  1. Why is hand washing effective in preventing the spread of some diseases?
  2. How long should you wash your hands to help prevent the spread of disease?


  1. What are infectious diseases? What causes infectious diseases?
  2. What is the single most important way to avoid pathogens?
  3. How can you avoid infecting others when you are sick?

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    infectious disease Disease that spreads from person to person.

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