Pathogenic Bacteria on Surfaces in Public Schools

Pathogenic Bacteria on Surfaces in Public Schools

Pathogens and pathogenic bacteria commonly found on fomites in public schools represent a significant ongoing and costly health hazard to the U.S. population.

Pathogenic Bacteria on Surfaces in Public Schools

The Role of Common Surfaces in Schools in the Transmission of Pathogens and Bacteria

Inanimate surfaces play a significant role in transmitting pathogens--influenza--and pathogenic bacteria--E. coli--in public schools.

Classrooms, in particular, are highly susceptible to the colonization and transmission of germs and bacteria due to the proximity of a large number of students, the high number of commonly touched surfaces, and the statistically low levels of hand hygiene.

The rapid growth and transmission of pathogenic bacteria and pathogens in the classroom results in widespread infection and illness--the leading cause of student absences.

Intervention programs that include hand hygiene protocols, increased cleaning frequencies, and targeted disinfection has proven effective at eliminating the presence of germs and bacteria, resulting in fewer absences and improved educational outcomes.


The Presence of Pathogenic Bacteria and Pathogens on Communal Surfaces in Public Schools

Pathogenic bacteria and pathogens are present on numerous surfaces within a classroom.

A recent study has shown that the more commonly touched the surface, the more contaminated it is.

Additionally, the same study established a strong correlation between the presence of germs and bacteria and student illness and absences.

Six elementary classrooms were divided into control and intervention groups (cleaned daily with a quaternary ammonium wipe) and tested for heterotrophic bacteria.

Three classrooms were also tested for norovirus and influenza A virus.

Frequently used fomites were the most contaminated; water fountain toggles, pencil sharpeners, keyboards, and faucet handles were the most bacterially contaminated; desktops, faucet handles, and paper towel dispensers were the most contaminated with viruses.

Influenza A virus was detected on up to 50% and norovirus on up to 22% of surfaces throughout the day.

Children in the control classrooms were 2.32 times more likely to report absenteeism due to illness than children in the intervention classrooms and were absent longer (on average).

Occurrence of bacteria and viruses on elementary classroom surfaces and the potential role of classroom hygiene in the spread of infectious diseases


The Consequence of High Levels of Pathogenic Bacteria and Pathogens on Commonly Touched Surfaces in Classrooms

As noted in the previous section, there is a clear correlation between the presence of illness-causing bacteria and germs on surfaces in the classroom and student absences.

According to one study, sickness-caused absences were the number one driver behind missed school days, ultimately resulting in additional non-illness-related absences--chronic absenteeism--as time wore on.

The one-year prevalence of school absence was 85% in mainstream primary schools and 79% in special schools.

Sickness absence was the most prevalent type of absence, occurring in 75 and 71% of pupils, respectively.

The prevalence of extensive sickness absence was 13 and 23%, respectively.

In mainstream schools, extensive sickness absence was associated with a young age, low parental educational level, more doctor’s visits, and unauthorized absence, and in special schools with more doctor’s visits, other authorized absence, tardiness, and unauthorized absence.

The prevalence of sickness absence among primary school pupils – reason to be worried?

A study of the available data and literature on the matter has demonstrated consistently poor short and long-term outcomes for students suffering from chronic absenteeism.

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics;

Students with poor attendance score lower than their peers who attend school regularly on national skills assessments, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Chronic absenteeism can be a better predictor of school failure than test scores.

In 1 study, students with high test scores who missed at least 2 weeks of school during the semester were more likely to have failing grades than students with low test scores who regularly attended school.

Chronic absenteeism as early as sixth grade is predictive of dropping out of school.

The literature reveals that poor school performance is associated with poor adult health outcomes.

Compared with adults with higher educational attainment, those with low educational attainment are more likely to be unemployed or work at a part-time or lower-paying job.

The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health


Cleaning, Hygiene, and Targeted Intervention Programs Reduce the Presence of Pathogenic Bacteria, Pathogens, and Rates of Student Illness and Absence

Intervention programs that consist of:

  • Proper cleaning practices and hospital-grade products,
  • Consistent hand hygiene for all students and faculty, and;
  • Targeted fomite disinfection;

Have a demonstrably positive impact on reducing pathogenic bacteria, pathogens, and associated infection and healthcare costs.

To demonstrate the effect of proper cleaning and disinfecting, we cleaned and disinfected classroom desks of first, fourth, and fifth graders at the end of each school day for 12 weeks and found that we could reduce absenteeism by 50% compared with classrooms where this was not done.

In another study, researchers found that providing an alcohol-based sanitizer and disinfecting key surfaces in the classroom reduced the occurrence of noroviruses on surfaces by more than 50%. Not surprisingly, student absenteeism due to diarrhea declined.

Cleaning Up: Battling Germs in School Facilities



Clearly, the presence of germs and bacteria on commonly touched surfaces in public classrooms is both pervasive and problematic, resulting in demonstrably increased instances of illness and absenteeism, as well as diminished educational and life outcomes.

Intervention programs consisting of professional cleaning and targeted disinfection by experienced professionals trained in cross-contamination prevention are proven methods for significantly reducing the presence of pathogens and pathogenic bacteria on surfaces in the classroom, resulting in documented improvements in student attendance and test scores.

Contact us today and discover why Vanguard Cleaning Systems® is the Standard of Clean® for businesses throughout Northwest Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, dial 918-960-4450

In Arkansas, dial 479-717-2410

In Missouri, dial 417-812-9777

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Ozarks.

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Ozarks.