Understanding the Spread of Disease
Infants and young children in early childhood programs have an increased rate of certain infectious disease and an increased risk of getting antibiotic-resistant organisms.
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Prevention of infectious disease in the child care setting will help families and educators improve their quality of life and save time, health care costs, and lost work.
What is a communicable disease?
Illnesses caused by infection (invasion of the body) with specific germs such as viruses, bacteria, funguses, and parasites are called infectious diseases. Communicable diseases are those illnesses that can be spread from one person to another either directly or indirectly. Infectious diseases that commonly occur among children are often communicable and may spread very easily from person to person. Most illnesses are contagious before signs and symptoms appear. Some people may pass the germs without having the symptoms or continue passing them even after recovering from the illness.
Why do children in the early childhood programs have more illnesses?
Anyone at any age can be infected with communicable illnesses, but young children are at greater risk because:
- They have not yet been exposed to many of the most common germs. Therefore, they have not yet built up resistance or immunity to them.
- They also have many habits that promote the spread of germs. For example, they often put their fingers, toys and other objects in their mouths. In this way, germs enter and leave the body and can then infect the child or be passed on to others.
- Close contact between a number of children in the child care setting increases exposure.
Illnesses are common among young children, and those in an early childhood program are likely to be two to three times more at risk of getting sick. This risk can be reduced through educating early childhood professionals and creating a healthy environment. Because children in child care spend so much time together, it's not unusual for germs to spread. Educators can reduce the spread of common illnesses by using simple precautions like thorough hand washing and keeping surfaces and toys clean. Early childhood programs can also help prevent the spread of illnesses by requiring immunizations and by developing rules to exclude children with specific symptoms.
- Talk to your health consultant or your local health department in your state if you have questions about a particular illness. Each state has information, here is the website for Washington State Dept. of Health website: Illness and Disease for specific information