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Preventing Communicable Diseases


Scabies is an infestation of the skin with a microscopic mite. Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in hospitals, institutions, child-care facilities, nursing homes, and CO-OPS.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Pimple-like irritations, burrows or rash of the skin, especially the webbing between the fingers; the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee; the penis, the breast, or shoulder blades.
  • Intense itching, especially at night and over most of the body.
  • Sores on the body caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria.

Scabies can be contracted by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person already infested with scabies. Contact must be prolonged (a quick handshake or hug will usually not spread infestation). Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members. Infestation may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding. Symptoms may take 4-6 weeks to begin.

Diagnosis is most commonly made by looking at the burrows or rash. A skin scraping may be taken to look for mites, eggs, or mite fecal matter to confirm the diagnosis. If a skin scraping or biopsy is taken and returns negative, it is possible that you may still be infested. Typically, there are fewer than 10 mites on the entire body of an infested person; this makes it easy for an infestation to be missed.


Anyone who is diagnosed with scabies, their sexual partners, and anyone with close, prolonged contact to an infested person should be treated with topical lotions that can be bought at a pharmacy or recommended by a physician. If diagnosed, the persons clothes, bedding, and towels should be washed in hot water, and dried in a hot dryer. Itching can continue for 2-3 weeks after treatment.


Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis. The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults. Most people with norovirus illness have both of these symptoms. People tend to get better within 1 or 2 days and they have no long-term health effects realated to their illness. Dehydration is the most dangerous effect of noro virus and can require immediate medical attention. Symptoms appear 12-48 hours after infection.

This virus is very contagious and can spread rapidly throughout such environments. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:

  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus;
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth;
  • having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms

People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. There is no treatment for the virus, but there are ways to relieve certain symptoms, namely dehydration.

You can decrease your chance of coming in contact with noroviruses by following these preventive steps:

  • Frequently wash your hands, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
  • Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.

Persons who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness. Food that may have been contaminated by an ill person should be disposed of.

Produced by the BSC Health Education Coordinators Katie Bones


What You Can Do to Prevent Communicable Diseases

Wash Your Hands
You should wash your hands often; probably more than you do now. You can't see germs and there's no way of telling if you're carrying them around. It's especially important to wash your hands in the following circumstances:

  • Before, during, and after you prepare food
  • Before you eat
  • After you use the toilet
  • After handling animals or animal waste
  • When your hands are dirty
  • More often when someone in your home is sick.

Clean and Disinfect Surfaces
Another way to help you keep the germs away is to routinely clean and disinfect surfaces. Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing. In most cases, cleaning with soap and water is adequate to remove dirt and germs, but sometimes you need to disinfect to provide an extra margin of safety.

Under the right conditions, some germs can live on surfaces for hours or even days. Even if surfaces look clean, many infectious germs might be lurking around. Disinfectants, such as regular household bleach, have ingredients that destroy bacteria and other germs. It's a good idea to disinfect areas such as kitchens and bathrooms where there are high concentrations of germs and a possibility they will be spread to others.

  • Before you start, read the labels and safety precautions on your cleaning products. Follow them.
  • Wear rubber gloves if you're cleaning up body fluids such as blood, vomit or feces, especially if you have cuts or scratches on your hands or if a family member has AIDS, hepatitis B, or another blood disease.
  • Clean the surface thoroughly with soap and water or another cleaner.
  • If you need to use a disinfectant, apply it to the area and let it stand for a few minutes so it has time to kill the most germs.
  • Wipe the surface with paper towels that can be thrown away or cloth towels that can be washed afterwards.
  • Store cleaners and disinfectants out of the reach of children.
  • Even if you use gloves, wash your hands after cleaning or disinfecting surfaces.

Prepare Food Carefully
Careless food handling and improper cooking often set the stage for the growth of disease-causing organisms. Cross-contamination can occur when cutting boards and kitchen tools that have been used to prepare one contaminated food (such as raw chicken) are not cleaned before being used for another food (such as vegetables). Hot or cold foods left standing too long at room temperature provide an ideal climate in which bacteria can grow. The first rule of safe food preparation in the home is to keep everything clean - this applies to the areas where food is prepared and to the cook.