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Stopping The Spread Of Germ Disease

( Originally Published 1920 )

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?—You must sometimes have played the game in which a button is passed about a circle of children from one hand to another, while a child in the center tries to guess where the button is.

The spread of germ diseases in a family, or in a school, or in a city, is somewhat like this game. A person who is coming down with the disease, or is a carrier brings in the germs and passes them on to some one else, and so it goes on from one to another. Only there is this difference. You can pass the button to only one person at a time. The disease germs, on the other hand, are constantly growing and increasing in numbers, so that they may spread from one person to half a dozen others. and from each of these to half a dozen more.

If the first boy who had the button put it into his pocket and kept it there, instead of handing it to any one, there would be an end of the game. In the same way, if the first child who is coming down with a disease were prevented from passing his germs on to some one else, there would be no more of that special kind of sickness among his friends and schoolmates. This is just what the Board of Health is always trying to do: to find cases of germ disease and take care of them so that the germs may not spread to someone else.

How to Prevent the Spread of Disease Germs: In unusual or very deadly diseases, like smallpox and plague, the sick person is taken to a special hospital, where he can be cared for without danger. In most diseases, however, it is proper for the person to stay at home, if he can be kept in a separate room where no one goes, except his mother or nurse or whoever takes care of him.

Everything, that comes out of this room which may contain the germs of the disease, such as bedclothes, handkerchiefs, forks and spoons, glasses and cups, should be boiled in water to kill the germs. The per-son in charge of the sick room should take the greatest care always to wash her hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, or with a special solution provided by the doctor to kill microbes. Otherwise, she may easily carry the germs on her hands to the rest of the family.

A child may often have diseases like whooping cough or an ordinary cold in the head, without being sick enough to. be in bed or even shut up in the house. In such a case, the child himself is the one who must try to protect other people, by taking care that the discharges from the nose and throat are not passed along to others.

Wherever a case of a germ disease occurs, the Board of Health puts up a placard at the door of the house or of the apartment, to warn people that there is danger inside; and every one should of course keep away from a house where such a placard has been posted.

Danger Signals.—Most germ diseases are particularly' "catching" just at the beginning, before the child or older person feels sick enough to go to bed and send for the doctor. We ought to be on the watch for the early signs of such diseases, either in ourselves or in other people, just as the players in the button game watch each other to see the conscious look on the face of the one who has the button in his hand.

Here are some of the signs of the beginning of an attack of a germ disease:

Coughing Watery eyes
Sneezing Headache
Running nose Rash or spots on the skin.
Sore throat Weak, tired feeling
Hot, feverish feeling Vomiting '

On a railroad track the train men sometimes hold out a red flag, or at night a red lantern, to warn a coming train that the track is not clear and that the train must stop. Any one of the things in the list above is a warning sign that something is wrong, like the red flag held out to stop the train.

These signs generally mean a cold in the head or a sore throat which will probably be over in a few days. They may, however, mean something more serious, like influenza or scarlet fever. So we should keep away, as much as possible, from any one who shows any of these signs of sickness.

Watching People Who have been Ex-posed to Germ Diseases.-Particular care should be taken to watch people who have been exposed to a germ disease—people, that is, who have been near a sick person and are therefore very likely to have taken the germs into their bodies.

When you catch a disease, like measles, from some one else, you do not come down with it right away. For a few days or perhaps a week or so, nothing happens at all, as far as any one can see; and then at last the coughing or the sneezing or the running nose or the fever begins. All the time something was really going on; the germs were growing and multiplying in your body until there were enough to make you feel really sick.

The doctors know how long it takes for the germs of each disease to develop in the body in this way. In many cases the Board of Health makes children who have been exposed to a germ disease stay out of school and away from other children, until this time is over and it is certain that they are not coming down with the disease themselves.

Keeping Disease Germs out of the Schoolroom.—Many of the commoner germ diseases are particularly likely to affect children, and so it is very important to keep such germs out of the schoolroom, where they may do so much harm. The simplest way to do this is to watch carefully for children who are coming down with some sickness and to send them home.

In most cities there are school doctors and school nurses who are always on the look-out for such signs of disease. It is their duty to examine any children whom the teacher may think are not well, to see if they have a germ disease and if they should be kept out of school until they are no longer dangerous to others.

Your Own Responsibility about Germ Diseases.—You children who are studying this book are old enough to know what responsibility means. I am sure you all try not to do anything that may hurt any one else needlessly. Now all of us, children and grown people alike, have a responsibility about the spread of germ diseases.

You can never tell how much harm may come from the passing on of the germs of disease from one person to another. What is only a little cold in the head in one may prove very serious in another. So if you have any of the signs of the germ diseases mentioned on page 196, you ought to take the greatest care not to expose other people to any danger. That means that you ought not to go to school (unless the school doctor says it is all right to do so) or play with other children. In your own family., you ought to take pains not to cough or sneeze in other people's faces, not to kiss or fondle other people, and not to touch food they are to eat or things they are likely to handle.

Above all, if you are ill, you should take the greatest care not to play with babies or very young children or to go anywhere near them. Germ diseases are much more serious for babies than for older people. "A little cold in a big person may be a big cold in a little person," some one has said; and it is a very true saying.

Why Alfred did not have the Measles.—Alfred was a baby about eight months old, and Anna, his elder sister, who often took care of him, thought he was a very cunning baby indeed.

One day she heard her father say to her mother, "Do you know that there is a great deal of measles about? I hope the baby does not catch it. He is so delicate that it might go very hard with him." Anna made up her mind that he should not be sick if she could help it.

When she took Alfred out in his carriage, she was very careful to keep away from houses which had the Board of Health sign MEASLES on them, and not to stop and speak to any children she knew, if they were coughing or sneezing. One day as she was passing the home of her friend, Ellen Ramsay, she saw Ellen sitting on the doorstep looking rather miserable and using her handkerchief a great deal.

"Hullo, Anna," she cried out, "come in and play with me. And let me hold Alfred for a little while. I think he's very cute."

"No, I don't dare to," replied Anna, backing away.

"I'm not letting any one come near him, for fear he should get the measles."

"Oh, come on! I haven't anything but a little cold."

"You don't know whether you have or not, Ellen, and I'm going to take the baby away, to be sure. Good-by. I hope you'll feel all right tomorrow."

"'Fraid Cat, 'fraid Cat," sang out Ellen; and as Anna went on up the street, the tears came into her blue eyes, for she knew she was not afraid for herself and it was hard to be called a coward.

About two weeks later Anna heard her father and mother talking about the measles again. "Do you know the whole Ramsay family have it? And the baby is very sick. They fear it may not live. Ellen got it first and gave it to all the rest. It's lucky Alfred has escaped, isn't it?"

Anna never told them it wasn't "luck" at all, but her own good sense and the courage to do what she knew was right, that had saved Alfred.

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