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When There’s More than One Person with CF in the Same School

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Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Minimizing the Risk of Cross-Infection Among People with CF

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a rare, genetic disease — only about 30,000 people in the United States have CF. Cystic fibrosis is not contagious.

People with CF have a defective gene that causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that can clog the lungs, pancreas and other organs. This can lead to breathing problems and susceptibility to developing lung infections from germs that would not pose a risk to healthy children or adults who do not have CF. However, these germs can be particularly dangerous for people with CF, especially when spread from another person with CF.

Although CF is a rare disease, in some schools there may be more than one person with CF present.

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Why are germs particularly dangerous for people with CF?

The thick, sticky mucus that can clog the lungs also allow germs to thrive and multiply. For people with CF, this buildup makes them more susceptible to developing lung infections. Despite significant progress treating CF, infections remain a serious problem and can lead to worsening lung disease and death. Medical studies show that people with CF are at particular risk of spreading certain germs among others with the disease. This is known as cross-infection.

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How can you lower the risk of cross-infection?

When there is more than one person with CF in your school, it is essential that they be kept a minimum of 6 feet (2 meters) apart from each other. Germs can spread as far as 6 feet through droplets released in the air when people cough or sneeze.

If there is more than one person with CF in the same school or classroom, the recommendations below can help minimize the spread of germs between people with CF. These recommendations are based on recent research and have been reviewed by medical experts.

  1. Minimize the time that two people with CF can spend in one place. A minimum 6-foot distance should be maintained at all times.

    • Cough-Droplets
      Place people with CF in separate classrooms whenever possible.

    • If they must be in the same classroom, but at different times, make sure the students are assigned separate desks and or work stations as far away as possible (a minimum of 6 feet) from the assigned location of the other student with CF.

    • Assign separate bathrooms and drinking fountains for students and staff members with CF.

    • Schedule the students with CF to be in other common gathering areas, such as the gym, at different times.

    • Assign lunch tables, lockers, etc. for all students with CF to be as far away as possible from the assigned locations of other students with CF.

    • Assign different locations for people with CF to go for their medications, or have the school nurse visit each student in their separate classrooms to administer the medications.

    • If a person with CF becomes ill while in school, one student can go to the health office, another to the principal’s office and a third to the counselor’s office.

    • If a student with CF is ill or needs to go to another room or office to get medications, the staff in that office should be notified prior to sending the student to the office to ensure that another person with CF is not present.

  2. Encourage everyone to wash or clean their hands.

    Germs can spread when people touch something with germs already on it, like a doorknob or desk, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

    • Everyone should clean their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose and after using common equipment (e.g., a pencil sharpener, lab equipment). This is especially important during the cold and flu season.

    • Make alcohol-based hand gel and or soap and water readily available for all students and staff to use in the classrooms.

  3. Encourage everyone to cover their cough.

    Germs can remain in the air on tiny droplets – ready to be breathed in. They can also remain on surfaces long after a person has coughed or sneezed on or near them.

    • Make tissues readily available and encourage people to cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away immediately before washing or cleaning hands. If a tissue is not available, encourage everyone to cough or sneeze into their inner elbow.

  4. Encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

Vaccinations help the body protect itself from germs, like the flu virus, which are especially dangerous for people with CF.

For a list of what vaccinations to get and when to get them, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

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Additional Resources

  • Get Germ Smart – Read and download posters, animated videos and a fact sheet on germ basics that can be used in the classroom.

  • Tip Sheets – Find easy-to-reference ways to guard against germs in health care settings and everyday life.

  • Webcasts – Hear from the experts on infection prevention and control in CF.

  • Staying Healthy – Learn more about maintaining health while living with CF.
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The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.