How Do Germs Spread?


where germs live
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“Reservoirs” are where germs live, like a habitat.

Things we do in healthcare can be pathways for germs to be carried from one reservoir to another, or into spaces that are not supposed to have any germs.

Too Touchy

Hands, for instance, touch almost everything.germs live on hands

Your hands and skin can pick up germs in the environment, from multiple reservoirs, and spread germs to other surfaces or people if not properly disinfected.

Germs from the skin and gastrointestinal reservoirs spread easily through touch.

Pathways for Germs to Invade

Germs can also spread when they’re breathed in or through splashes or sprays to the eyes, nose, and mouth, or to broken or unhealthy skin. For example, urine and snot can get into breaks in the skin, or be splashed or sprayed into the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Germs Invade When We Are Vulnerable

Finally, germs can spread through clinical care tasks that bypass or break down the body’s natural defenses, such as needlesticks and chemotherapy.

Procedures and surgeries that require breaking skin can also allow germs from the skin to get into the body. Respiratory treatments, such as intubation, can also spread germs from the mouth and throat into the lungs.

Infection Control Keeps Germs from Spreading

Infection control actions are connected to how germs can spread to and from different areas of the body, from one person to another, from people to things, or things to people.

The more you know about germs, where they live, how they are spread, and how to keep them from spreading, the better you can protect yourself and your patients.

What Can You Do to Promote Infection Control in Your Healthcare Setting?

Access more information about infection prevention and control in healthcare by visiting resources from CDC Project Firstline.

Project Firstline creates resources, including videos and shareable images, web buttons, posters, and print materials. They also have facilitator toolkits to help workers lead trainings even if they are not an infection control expert.

Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is working with the National Hispanic Medical Association to bring Project Firstline infection control educational content to healthcare workers, so they are equipped with the knowledge they need to protect themselves, their facilities, and their patients (Latinos and all communities) from infectious disease threats in healthcare settings.

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“Healthcare teams in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care settings are the front lines against the spread of infection,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. “CDC’s Project Firstline is bolstering those efforts by developing evidence-based tools that can be delivered in a variety of ways to make infection control learning convenient and accessible for busy healthcare staff.”

Learn More about Project Firstline!

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America!, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the CDC’s Project Firstline. To find resources training materials, and other tools to bolster knowledge and practice of infection control, visit Project Firstline and view Salud America!’s infection control content.


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