• Stopping Germs at Home, Work andSchool


    How Germs Spread

    The main way that illnesses like colds and flu are spread is from person to person in

    respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This is called "droplet spread." This can

    happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the

    air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes germs also

    can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a

    surface like a desk and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing

    their hands. We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on

    surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.


    How to Stop the Spread of Germs

    In a nutshell: take care to

    • Cover your mouth and nose

    • Clean your hands often

    • Remind your children to practice healthy habits, too

    Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing

    Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away.Cover your cough or sneeze if

    you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or


    The "Happy Birthday" song helps keep your hands clean?

    Not exactly. Yet we recommend that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm

    water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. That's about the same time it takes to sing

    the “Happy Birthday” song twice!

    Alcohol-Based Hand Wipes and GelSanitizers Work Too

    When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel

    sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If

    using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the

    alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.*

    * Source: FDA/CFSAN Food Safety A toZ Reference Guide, September 2001: Handwashing.


    Germs and Children

    Remind children to practice healthy habits too, because germs spread, especially at

    school. The flu has caused high rates of absenteeism among students and staff in our

    country's 119,000 schools. Influenza is not the only respiratory infection of concern in

    schools -- nearly 22 million schools days are lost each year to the common cold alone.

    However, when children practice healthy habits, they miss fewer days of school.