Communicable Disease Prevention

Communicable Diseases

A communicable disease is one that is caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites or fungi and are easily spread from one person to another through a variety of ways that include: contact with blood and bodily fluids; breathing in an airborne virus; or by being bitten by an insect.

Some of the most common communicable diseases among college students are:

Microscope view of influenza


Influenza (or the "flu") is caused by influenza viruses, most commonly by Type A and Type B influenza virus. The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

microscope image of Meningitis


Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, generally caused by bacteria and viruses. Meningitis usually spreads through coughing, kissing, sneezing. If not treated in time, meningitis can cause serious health complications and even death. 

Microscope view of COVID-19


Covid-19 spreads through droplets from nose or mouth through coughing and sneezing. Vaccination, hand-sanitization, and mask-wearing are some of the ways to protect yourself from Covid-19.

Microscope view of Herpes STI

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs, according to the World Health Organization, can be caused by more than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites that are known to be transmitted through sexual contact.


Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent diseases caused by a variety of viruses - it works for the flu, a cold, e-coli, norovirus, rotavirus or even coronavirus.

Want other ways to help prevent communicable disease?

  • Stay away from other people and keep a safe distance, and avoid going to public places when you are sick.
  • Cleaning frequently touched objects (keyboards, desks, door-knobs) when sick.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. 
  • Avoid sharing personal items that can’t be disinfected, like toothbrushes and razors, or sharing towels between washes.
  • Handle and prepare food safely. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces often when preparing any food, especially raw meat. Always wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Get yourself vaccinated. Vaccination can prevent you from getting certain communicable diseases (Flu, meningitis, Covid-19).
  • Avoid touching wild animals as they can spread infectious diseases to you and your pets. Coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, or feces of an infected animal could put you at risk. 
  • Indulging safer sex practices (using condoms, dental dams) to reduce the risk of getting Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

Why Should You Wash Your Hands?

Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections because:

  • People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it. Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and make us sick.
  • Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.
  • Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.
  • Removing germs through handwashing therefore helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

  • After using the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
Please Wash Your Hands

Soap and Water

Washing your hands with soap and water are the #1 way to prevent the spread of germs.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

See the science for why you should follow these steps!

Hand Sanitizer

If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.

Sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. However,

  • Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.
  • Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
  • Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.

How to use hand sanitizer

  • Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.

Page last modified June 14, 2022