Diseases spread by direct contact

Skin and Superficial Infections

Skin infections and superficial infections are common and are not serious. They include impetigo, ringworm, conjunctivitis, scabies, and head lice. Because young children constantly touch their surroundings and their caregivers, these infections can spread easily among children and their caregivers.

Steps to prevent the spread of these infections:

  • Adults and children should always wash their hands after contact with any possible infectious material.
  • Wash and sanitize toys and all other surfaces and objects, including tables, counters, floors, linens, etc.
  • Each child should have his or her own crib or mat and never switch unless all surfaces are first cleaned and sanitized. Sheets and mats should be kept clean and stored so that sleeping surfaces do not touch each other.
  • Do not allow children to share personal items such as combs, brushes, blankets, pillows, hats, or clothing. Do not allow children’s stored clothing or bedding to touch.  Lice spread by crawling from one person or that person’s articles to another. If clothes hooks are too close, use a large laundry bag to store each child’s articles separately.
  • Store each child’s dirty clothing separately in plastic bags and send it home for laundering.
  • Promptly wash and cover sores, cuts, and scrapes.  Children whose eyes are discharging puss should not be in contact with other children, so they should not be at school until the discharge has stopped.
  • Report rashes, sores, running eyes, and severe itching to the family. Ask the family to consult their child’s usual source of health care to see if treatment is needed and whether the child’s condition is contagious.

Special Advice for Group Care Settings:

  • Determine if the child can participate in usual routines.  Ask the following questions:
    • Will meeting the ill child’s needs compromise the caregiver’s ability to provide good care for the child or for the other children in care?
    • Does the child’s condition pose a risk to others?

Some facts about these infections:

  • They are spread by direct contact with infected secretions, infected skin areas, or infested articles.
  • They are caused by superficial bacterial, viral, or fungal infections or parasitic infestation.
  • Some examples of how the diseases can spread:
    • A child with oozy sores on her arm brushes against a playmate.  A small amount of ooze gets on his arm and then into a cut or scratch on his skin.
    • A louse on the hood of a child’s jacket crawls onto another jacket on the adjacent clothes hook.  The second child puts on the jacket and the louse crawls onto his head.
    • A child with an eye discharge rubs her eyes and then handles a toy.  Another child later plays with the toy, then rubs his eyes, and puts eye discharge from the first child into his own eyes.

Cytomegalovirus, Herpes, Blood-Borne Infections, and STDs

Cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may be more serious than the skin infections previously described.   People with these infections may experience no symptoms, mild illness (such as cold sores), or a total body illness. Each of these infections has some special risks.  A pregnant woman who is having her first exposure to CMV can infect her baby with the potential for serious injury to the baby.  Similarly, infections of HSV in the newborn can be devastating.  STDs vary in their consequences. Some affect fertility, others can induce cancer, or can be life-threatening.

To stop the spread of these diseases:

  • Assume that every body secretion is potentially contagious.
  • Adults and children should always wash their hands well, especially after any contact with blood, saliva, urine, stool, skin sores, or genital secretions.

Some facts about these diseases:

  • CMV is transmitted by contact with saliva and urine.
  • HSV and STDs most commonly spread through skin and mucous membranes.
  • Some infections (such as syphilis) are treatable, but others (like CMV) are not.
  • Anyone can get these infections and can carry the germs in their body secretions for months or years and not experience symptoms.
  • Transfer occurs when germs get on skin that is broken, cut, or scraped, or on mucous surfaces such as the inside linings of the mouth, eyes, nose, rectum, or sex organs.
  • A mother can pass on infection to her newborn infant.