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Reducing the Spread of Illness

Respiratory illnesses include influenza (the flu), COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), common colds, and others.

How respiratory viruses spread

  • Respiratory droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough, sneeze, breathe or talk
  • Aerosols, which are tiny respiratory droplets that can stay in the air longer
  • Close contact with someone who is sick (being within two metres for 15 minutes or more, or for multiple short periods of time without a mask)
  • Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes

Everyone has a role to play to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. 

Use layers of protection

Wash hands often with soap and water. Wash for at least 20 seconds and dry your hands completely. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Look for at least 70% alcohol content.

It is important to stay at home when you are sick to avoid spreading germs to others.

  • Do not go to work or social events
  • Keep children home from school, childcare and recreation activities
  • Avoid visiting others in hospital or long-term care

In general, stay home until your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours and you no longer have a fever, or 48 hours if you have vomiting and/or diarrhea.

If you work in a healthcare facility, you may be asked to stay off work for longer periods during outbreak situations.

There are safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 and influenza (the flu). Vaccines are the best way to protect against severe illness from these viruses.

Staying up to date on vaccinations:

  • Protects you if you're exposed to the virus
  • Prevents you from getting very sick
  • Helps protect other people who are at higher risk of serious complications if they get sick
  • Reduces additional burden on the healthcare system
  • Reduces your chances of being infected with more than one respiratory illness at the same time

Everyone aged six months and older can get COVID vaccine and the flu shot at no cost in Ontario. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of health complications from the flu and COVID-19, and for people who can spread these viruses to them.

Health Canada has approved a new vaccine for RSV. At this time, it is available in Ontario only for those aged 60 years and older living in long-term care homes, Elder Care Lodges, and for some retirement home residents.

Consider wearing a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask in indoor public settings, especially if you are at higher risk of severe infection. Setting-specific masking policies should be followed.

If you have respiratory symptoms, wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings for 10 days from when your symptoms started.

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend in your arm, not your hands. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, the germs can land on the next surface you touch. If it’s a surface that a lot of other people touch, like a doorknob, the germs can spread to them.

If you use a tissue, throw it away and then wash your hands.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects such as doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, toys, and countertops.

Cleaning surfaces and objects with soap and water doesn't necessarily kill germs. But it can reduce the amount of germs by physically removing them.

Disinfecting kills or deactivates germs when disinfectants are used according to their product label directions. Look for products with a drug identification number (DIN) on the label. You should always clean surfaces first with soap, and then disinfect them.

You can make a household disinfectant solution by mixing bleach and water.

Make your own disinfectant

To disinfect surfaces that can be bleached, you can mix a mild solution (1:100) of chlorine bleach and water:

  • 1 tsp (5 ml) bleach in 2 cups (500 ml) of water

The solution should stay on the surface for at least one minute.

If you are disinfecting a surface that has been soiled with body fluids (vomit or diarrhea), use a stronger solution (1:10):

  • 1/4 cup (62 ml) bleach in 2¼ cups (562 ml) of water

The bleach solution should stay on the surface for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Please note that rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and essential oils do not kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces.

Good ventilation exchanges indoor air for outdoor air. This helps reduce the buildup of potentially infectious respiratory particles in the air indoors.

  • Open windows or doors if possible, even for a few minutes at a time
  • Maintain your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system by having regular maintenance and replacing the filters when recommended

Information for healthcare providers

Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) involves evidence-based practices and procedures that, when applied consistently, can reduce the spread of regular and resistant microbes in healthcare settings.

Below are resources on infection control in healthcare settings. If you require any documents in an alternative format, please contact us.

Contact Us

Huron Perth Public Health

Huron Office
77722B London Road, RR #5, Clinton, ON
N0M 1L0

Perth Office
653 West Gore St., Stratford ON N5A 1L4
Toll-free 1-888-221-2133

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