Public Health Disease and Prevention Information
Here you’ll find information about a wide range of diseases, illnesses and prevention strategies which are often related to public health and public health concerns. Our thanks to the Oklahoma Department of Health for allowing us to post this information. The diseases are categorized as follows:
Skin diseases can have many different causes including allergies, skin conditions, infestations and infections. Signs of infection include redness, tenderness, swelling, and in some cases drainage or fever. It is important to prevent the spread of skin infections by keeping the drainage away from other people or surfaces that people may touch.
Frequent and careful hand hygiene is the most important action everyone can take to prevent the spread of skin infections, especially after contact with persons or items that may be contaminated. Hand hygiene means either washing hands with soap and running water, or using alcohol-based hand products such as gels or foams. Alcohol-based hand products decontaminate your hands only when they are already visibly clean.
Overall personal cleanliness is important too. Shower regularly, especially right after sports practices and events. Regularly wash clothes including workout clothes, using a washing machine and dryer if possible.
All skin infections should be covered with clean dry dressings that completely cover the area and successfully contain the drainage. Continue covering the infection site until it is healed. Be careful when you remove a soiled dressing: immediately place it into a trash container, and wash your hands before applying the clean dressing.
Skin infections have been spread through sharing of items such as razors, towels, and clothing. Do not share items that may have had contact with skin infections.
Please use the links below for additional information about skin infections and how to prevent their spread.
- Invasive Group A Strep Streptococcus
- Molluscum Contagiosum
- Staphylococcal Skin Infections and MRSA
- Vibrio vulnificus
Communicable or infectious diseases are infections transmitted from an infected person, animal or reservoir to another person. These infections can be spread from direct or indirect contact. Knowing how infectious diseases are spread can help minimize the risk of infection. Adopting healthy behaviors can reduce illness. There are simple things you can do to prevent illness.
- Keep Immunizations up to date
- Wash your hands often
- Be aware of what you eat, and be careful how you prepare it
- Use antibiotics exactly as prescribed
- Report to your doctor any worsening infection that does not get better after you take a prescribed antibiotic
- Be cautious around wild and domestic animals that are not familiar to you
- Avoid areas of insect infestation
- Avoid unsafe unprotected sex and injection drug use
- Stay alert to disease threats when you travel
- When sick, allow yourself time to heal and recover.
General Disease Prevention
- Bacterial Skin Infections
- Spanish – Bacterial Skin Infections
- Prevent Infectious Diseases Daily
- Prevention of Diarrheal Illness in Schools
- 10 Ways To Prevent Infectious Diseases
Good hand cleaning – also called hand hygiene – is the first protection against the spread of many illnesses. Germs on your hands can cause illnesses such as common colds, influenza (flu) and skin infections as well as more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchitis, hepatitis A, and many types of diarrhea.
What is the best way to clean your hands?
- Wash hands with soap and water to physically remove germs. This is the only way to clean hands that are visibly soiled.
- First, wet your hands with warm water, then use liquid or clean bar soap to work up a lather. Rub your hands together vigorously for at least 15 to 20 seconds to remove the ”dirt”.
- Remember to scrub your nail areas, thumbs, wrists and back of hands because these areas are often forgotten.
- Finish by rinsing your hands well, then drying with a clean towel. In public areas, protect your clean hands by using the paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door.
- Your hands can look clean, but germs may be present. To disinfect your hands, use an alcohol-based hand product such as a gel or foam.
- Alcohol-based hand products only work on hands that appear to be clean because they cannot remove “dirt”.
- Use enough of the product to thoroughly moisten your hands, and then rub it in until your hands are dry.
When is it important to clean your hands?
- Before, during and after you prepare food
- Before you eat
- Before you touch your eyes, nose or mouth
- Before you insert or remove contact lenses
- Before and after using sports/fitness equipment
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After you blow your nose
- After you cough or sneeze into your hands
- After you use the bathroom or change a diaper
- After handling uncooked foods, especially meat, poultry or fish
- After handling animals or animal waste
- After you handle garbage or dirty laundry
- After shaking hands
- After touching unclean surfaces (even if they look clean)
- More often when someone in your home is sick
- Whenever your hands are dirty
Respiratory diseases affect one’s ability to breath and involve the airways as well as the lungs. There are many bacteria and viruses that can be spread by breathing in infectious droplets.
Examples of respiratory diseases include pertussis, influenza, adenovirus, para-influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus. These respiratory illnesses are spread from person-to-person by respiratory droplets released during talking, coughing, laughing or sneezing.
Influenza and other respiratory viruses may also be spread by direct contact with contaminated objects and then touching one’s mouth or nose. The spread of pertussis through contaminated objects occurs rarely if at all.
How to prevent respiratory diseases:
- Good hygiene habits prevent and reduce the transmission of influenza and other respiratory viruses by:
- Covering your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when sneezing or coughing,
- Disposing of tissues properly,
- Washing hands frequently, and
- Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers if hands are not visibly soiled.
- When sick with a fever and cough:
- Stay home from work, school, church, or other daily activities outside of the home,
- Avoid other crowded areas or events like shopping malls or sports arenas,
- Do not visit nursing homes, hospitals, or other long-term care facilities,
- Do not visit people at increased risk for severe flu-related complications.
Respiratory Virus Fact Sheets and Information
Respiratory Virus Prevention Information
- Hand Hygiene
- Hand Hygiene Activity Book for Children
- Cover Your Cough the Right Way
- Spanish – Cover Your Cough the Right Way
- Cover Your Cough
- Spanish – Cover Your Cough
Influenza Fact Sheets and Information
- The Flu Fact Sheet
- Spanish – The Flu Fact Sheet
- Don’t Let the Flu Get You
- Spanish – Don’t Let the Flu Get You
- Bird Flu Facts
- Pandemic Influenza Fact Sheet
- Spanish – Pandemic Influenza
- Avian Influenza Fact Sheet
- Spanish – Avian Influenza
- Bird Flu & You
Influenza Vaccine Information
Influenza, commonly called “the flu”, is caused by a virus that primarily affects the nose, throat, bronchial airways, and lungs.
Influenza viruses are divided into two types, influenza type A and B. Both influenza types typically circulate in the United States during late fall and winter. Each type of influenza virus has many different strains, which tend to change from year to year.
Pandemic influenza is a widespread outbreak of disease that would affect a large number of people worldwide caused by a new subtype of an influenza A strain. Every year influenza A viruses undergo small seasonal changes called genetic drifts. Whenever an influenza A virus undergoes a major change called genetic shift, a new influenza A virus subtype is created. This major change may cause a pandemic of influenza.
A new influenza A virus subtype may cause more severe illness than the influenza A viruses that normally circulate on a seasonal basis. Most people will have little or no natural resistance to the new influenza A virus. No one knows exactly when or if a pandemic of influenza will occur.
Avian influenza, commonly called “bird flu”, is an infection caused by type A influenza viruses that normally only infect birds. The pathogenicity or ability of avian influenza viruses to cause disease in domestic poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys) tends to vary with the makeup or subtype of the virus. Subtypes that are classified as “low pathogenic” cause no noticeable disease or only very mild symptoms of illness in birds, such as ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production. Low pathogenic strains of bird flu viruses are widely distributed in wild birds all over the world and do not pose a significant animal or public health threat.
“Highly pathogenic” avian influenza virus strains cause very severe disease, spread rapidly through a flock, and kill a high proportion of affected birds. Presently, only H5 and H7 subtypes are associated with severe disease outbreaks in birds. Highly pathogenic bird flu is very rare in the United States.
Rashes can have many different causes. Some reasons for rashes include bacteria, viruses, allergies, medication reactions, contact sensitivity, insect bites, and other medical conditions. Some of the bioterrorism agents may first appear as rashes. It is important to quickly determine if the rash is caused by a disease that can be spread from person to person. Infection control measures to stop the spread of a rash-causing disease may include temporarily removing the person from a group setting such as school or daycare, and providing vaccinations or medications if indicated.
Many rash illnesses such as rubeola (measles), rubella (German measles), and varicella (chickenpox) are becoming less common in Oklahoma due to successful vaccination programs along with quick detection and control actions. However, since they are not completely abolished, it is important to quickly identify and respond when they do occur.
Head lice are parasitic insects called Pediculus humanus capitis, which are commonly found in a human’s hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Head lice can cause irritation to the scalp or other areas when the organism feeds on blood at the surface of the skin. Head lice rely on the warmth of their hosts to reproduce. The insect, Pediculus humanus capitis, is roughly the size of a sesame seed. Head lice can crawl very quickly, but cannot jump or fly.
There are three forms of lice: egg, nymph, and adult. The eggs (nits) are very small, hard to see, and are often confused with dandruff or hair spray droplets. They are oval and usually yellow to white. Nits are laid by the adult female at the base of the hair shaft near the scalp, firmly attached to the hair shaft, and take about 1 week to hatch. The nit hatches into a baby louse (nymph), which feeds on the blood of the host. Nymphs mature into adults (louse) about 7 days after hatching. The adult louse is about the size of a sesame seed, has six legs, and is tan to grayish white. Adult lice can live up to 30 days on a person’s head.
The most common sign of a recent head lice infestation is itching of the head and scalp, particularly at the back of the head and around the ears. Itching can also be the result of an allergic reaction to the bites. An individual may also experience a tickling feeling of something moving in the hair. As a symptom of scratching, sores may be present on an individual’s scalp. Diagnosis is performed by a trained person who searches for signs of the insects in the hair and scalp. Because lice are quick moving and may not be easily seen, finding eggs within ¼ inch of the scalp is confirmation of an infestation.
Anyone who comes in direct contact with someone who already has head lice is at risk of infestation. Head lice may also be acquired from contact with clothing (such as hats, scarves, coats) or other personal items (brushes or towels) that belong to an infested individual. Transmission of both live insects and eggs can result in infestation.
Head lice are treated with medication and manual removal. Pediculocides are prescription medications directly applied to infested areas that kill head lice. It is important to remove as many lice and nits as possible.
How to prevent head lice infestation:
- Teach children not to share clothing, hats, brushes, or combs with other children.
- Make head checks part of routine hygiene. Check children’s heads as soon as signs of infestations occur. The earlier lice are found, the easier they are to treat.
- Teach children to hang coats and other personal belongings so that they don’t touch the coats or personal belongings of other students.
- Work with schools as necessary to eliminate head lice.
Rash Illness Fact Sheets
- Chickenpox Fact Sheet
- Fifth Disease Fact Sheet
- Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Fact Sheet
- Head Lice
- Head Lice Fact Sheet
- Spanish – Head Lice
- Head Lice Control in Schools and Daycares
- Head Lice Control Measure Tip Sheet
- Household Cleaning for Louse Control
- How to Comb Hair to Remove Nits
- Reference Table of Pediculocides
- Reference Table for Head Lice Treatments
- Lice Manipulation Calendar
- Head Lice Treatment Calendar
- How to Treat Head Lice
- Questions and Answers about Head Lice
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Treating Head Lice
- Molluscum Contagiosum Fact Sheet
- RSV Fact Sheet
- Scarlet Fever
- Smallpox Fact Sheet
- Staphylococcal Skin Infections and MRSA
- Staphylococcal Skin Infections in Schools
- Staphylococcal Skin Infections in Sports
- Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Spanish – Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Bacterial Skin Infections
- Spanish – Bacterial Skin Infections
- Straw Itch Mites