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Infectious Disease

An infectious disease is an illness caused by a microbe – an organism too small to be seen with the naked eye.  Disease causing microbes are bacteria, virus, fungi, and protozoa (a type of parasite).  These are what most people call “germs”.

Germs lurk in every corner of the school environment, making it important to not only ensure proper personal hygiene, but also consistent cleaning for health.  NEA HIN offers a number of programs that address both specific infectious diseases and methods to prevent the spread of disease.  Our resources include:  

  • Information on types of infectious disease
  • Methods of infectious disease prevention
  • Prevention of infectious disease for sexual and reproductive health

Types of Infectious Disease

 Most infectious disease will be caused by one of four types of germs:

  • Bacteria – single-celled organisms that reproduce themselves, by themselves.
  • Virus – Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot reproduce themselves.  They actually take over the cells they infect in order to reproduce and spread.
  • Fungi – Look like plants, but live off of animals, people and plants (examples are mushrooms and yeast)
  • Protozoa – Small parasites that live in the water and live off of other organisms, such as humans (examples include malaria and Giardia).

 There are various types of infectious disease.  Some of the most common in the school environment include:


Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.  The flu is usually more severe than a cold and includes symptoms of fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough.  It is mostly spread in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes.

For further information on the flu, please visit CDC’s Flu Information


MRSA refers to (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a type of staph infection that are resistant to a type of antibiotic methicillin and other types of antibiotics.

Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes and dialysis centers) who have weakened immune systems. These healthcare-associated staph infections include surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.

Staph or MRSA infections in the community are usually manifested as skin infections that look like pimples or boils and occur in otherwise healthy people.  For more information on MRSA



Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis (stomach bugs).  The most common symptoms of acute gastroenteritis are diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Norovirus is the official genus name for the group of viruses previously described as “Norwalk-like viruses”.

For additional information go to NEA HIN’s Stomach Bug Book or to CDC.

Bloodborne Pathogens

Viruses carried by blood are known as bloodborne pathogens (disease producing microorganisms found in the blood).  Many school personnel come in contact with blood and other body fluids when at work — whether in the classroom, on the playground, on the playing field, or on the school bus. That is why it is important for all school employees to understand the danger of exposure to infections and ways to minimize their risk. NEA HIN has updated its publication: The Red Book: Exposure to Blood and Bodily Fluids on the job: What School Employees Need to Know.

A number of diseases are classified as bloodborne and include:

For more detailed information on bloodborne diseases and their prevention, please review The Red Book.

For additional information please view the following:

NIH AIDS Information

US Dept. of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration

To learn about ways to prevent the contraction and spread of infectious diseases, please visit the Infectious Disease Prevention Page.