Although some pathogens are spread through insects or close personal contact, many other diseases are transmitted from human to human more directly - through the air, or through contaminated food and water. When vaccination is unavailable to prevent infection, basic health precautions can reduce the likelihood of exposure to many of these illnesses.
Maintaining clean hands is one of the most important tools for reducing the risk of infection. Individuals should regularly wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Hand washing is especially important after touching commonly handled items such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, and handrails, before and after preparing food, and before and after eating. Individuals should also limit the number of times they touch their face, eyes, and mouth.
Another important health precaution is social distancing. When in areas experiencing infectious disease activity, consider avoiding crowded areas, where the risk of encountering a sick person is highest. Be cautious when interacting with obviously ill people. In some regions, people may wear paper masks in public. It is important to realize that these masks are designed only to prevent transmission of pathogens from the wearer; although wearing a mask may be better than nothing, paper masks are not intended to prevent transmission of pathogens to the wearer. For such protection, individuals must obtain properly fitted respirator masks.
Occasionally, during periods of increased transmission of particular diseases or outbreaks of specific illnesses, some hospitals may limit visitation of friends and family to reduce the chance of disease transmission to and from patients. Hospital wards may close; at times, entire facilities may close to non-patient visitors. This is often used as a public health precaution to limit disease spread in a community.
Food and Water Safety
Food and water are common vehicles of pathogen transmission, especially in areas without ready access to improved sanitation. Take precautions to avoid potentially contaminated food and water by using only bottled, boiled, or otherwise purified water, and ensuring that all food has been carefully prepared and served. When eating out, individuals should eat only food that is well-cooked and served hot.
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