How Infections Are Spread
Contaminated water or food accounted for many epidemics in earlier times. Public health measures changed all that. Today infections are spread in the following ways:
- First: Respiratory infections are mainly spread by secretions from a sick child's nose, mouth, and eyes. When a well child gets these secretions on his hands and then touches his nose or eyes, a new infection begins. Toddlers are especially good at spreading colds because of their habits of touching and mouthing everything in sight.
- Second: Diarrhea is usually spread by contamination of the hands or other objects with feces. Unlike urine, which is usually sterile, bowel movements contain millions of bacteria.
- Third: Even today, some foods contain bacteria that cause diarrhea. Over half of raw chicken and turkey are contaminated. Safe preparation is a challenge.
- Fourth: Fluid from sores, such as chicken pox and fever blisters is contagious. However, most red rashes without a fluid discharge are not contagious.
One final note: many serious infections are not contagious. Examples are urinary tract, sinus, ear, lymph node, and bloodstream infections.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.