Infectious diseases are equal opportunity hitchhikers. Should a person be waylaid by influenza, strep throat, mononucleosis, or COVID-19, casual contact may be all it takes to pass the illness to someone else. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that COVID-19 is primarily spread from person-to-person among people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or possibly be inhaled through the lungs. Other viruses and bacteria spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching one’s own mouth, nose or possibly the eyes.
Keeping household members safe when one person is ill can be challenging, but it is possible. These steps can help keep everyone in a household safe, particularly from virulent diseases.
• Wash your hands. This is the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs. As frequently as possible, wash your hands for 20 seconds, and especially after touching frequently used items or before and after preparing and eating food.
• Disinfect surfaces. Target areas that are frequently touched by all members of the household. Such surfaces include doorknobs, stairway railings, bathroom and kitchen faucets, the refrigerator door, light switches, and cabinet knobs. Make sure to keep the disinfectant visibly wet on the surface for the “dwell time” recommended on the label instructions to fully kill the germs.
• Consider color coding. Use microfiber cloths, which don’t harbor germs like porous sponges do, with different colors for cleaning each room of the house to prevent the spread of germs from one area to another.
• Keep your distance. Sick individuals should stay away from others as much as possible. Now might be the time to use a guest bedroom for spouses who normally share a bed. Designate a separate bathroom for healthy individuals. Do not touch hands, hug or kiss others while you are ill.
• Use personal bath towels. Do not share towels and linens with others while sick. Now is the time for a personal bath towel or bathrobe for showering and drying hands.
It can be difficult to avoid spreading disease when one member of a household is sick. But with proper hygiene and diligence, illnesses can be contained.