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Health protection

Protecting the health of people in Devon and responding to any health-related emergencies is part of our public health role. Health Protection encompasses; ensuring safety and quality of food, water, air, and general environment; disease and injury prevention; preventing the transmission of communicable diseases; managing outbreaks and other incidents which threaten public health; emergency planning.

The Devon public health team work as one partner within a wider system, including UKHSA, NHS and district councils, to support health protection across Devon.

Some of the areas we cover are outlined below.

Preventing and controlling infectious diseases

Hand Hygiene

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from illnesses such as food poisoning and flu.  If you do not have immediate access to soap and water, then use alcohol-based hand rub if available.

Hand washing can help stop people picking up infections and spreading them to others. And it can also help stop spreading infections when you’re visiting someone in hospital or another healthcare setting.

Learn how and when clean your hands: How to wash your hands – NHS (

Hand hygiene Information leaflet for community service users and relatives

Respiratory Hygiene

Coughing and sneezing increases the number of particles released by a person, the distance the particles travel and the time they stay in the air. If an infected person coughs or sneezes without covering their nose and mouth, it will significantly increase the risk of infecting others around them. By covering your nose and mouth, you will reduce the spread of particles carrying the virus.

Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in a bin and immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitiser. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not into your hand.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases (

Is pneumonia contagious? – NHS (

Clean your surroundings

Surfaces and belongings can be contaminated with COVID-19 and other germs when people who are infected touch them or cough, talk or breathe over them. Cleaning surfaces will reduce the risk of you catching or spreading infections.

Clean surfaces in your home often. Pay particular attention to surfaces that are touched frequently, such as handles, light switches, work surfaces and electronic devices such as remote controls.

Can clothes and towels spread germs? – NHS (


Ventilation is the process of introducing fresh air into indoor spaces while removing stale air. Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can help remove air that contains virus particles and prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and other respiratory infections such as flu. Good ventilation has also been linked to health benefits such as better sleep and concentration, and fewer sick days off from work or school. Find out more here: Ventilation to reduce the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19 – GOV.UK (

Food Safety

Food poisoning- Bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning and how to avoid the risk of getting ill: Food poisoning | Food Standards Agency

Food hygiene advice for cooking at home and when eating out: Food hygiene for consumers | Food Standards Agency

Is my child too ill for school?

It can be tricky deciding whether or not to keep your child off school, nursery or playgroup when they’re unwell.

If you do keep your child at home, it’s important to phone the school or nursery on the first day. Let them know that your child won’t be in and give them the reason.

If your child is well enough to go to school but has an infection that could be passed on, such as a cold sore or head lice, let their teacher know.

Should I keep my child off school checklist poster (

Having an ill child can be a very scary experience for parents. If you understand more about the illness it can help you to feel more in control. This booklet is for parents (and older children) and deals with common infections in children who are normally healthy. When should I worry?

Notifiable diseases and causative organisms: how to report

Registered medical practitioners (RMPs) have a statutory duty to notify the ‘proper officer’ at their local council or local health protection team (HPT) of suspected cases of certain infectious diseases and how to report them.

If you have any concerns about an infectious disease or to get professional advice, contact our local South West UKHSA Health Protection Team on 0300 303 8162.


This guide can help you understand the vaccines offered in the UK and when to have them. It also explains how they work and why they are safe and important.

In Health Protection we work closely with our partners and the NHS to promote the importance of vaccination and support efforts to increase uptake such as through outreach vaccination clinics and bespoke campaigns.

To book your COVID vaccine visit the NHS website. Use this service to book a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or booster dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.


This page gives an overview of screening, with links to the different types of screening programmes offered by the NHS in England. It also explains what they are and why they are important.

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance remains one of the biggest threats facing us today and it is something we are concerned about in Public Health. Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous. Setting broken bones, basic operations, even chemotherapy and animal health all rely on access to antibiotics that work. To slow resistance, we need to cut the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

We encourage the public, students and educators, farmers, the veterinary and medical communities, and professional organisations, to become Antibiotic Guardians: Antibiotic Guardian | Pledge to be an Antibiotic Guardian.

You can also find out more here: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – GOV.UK (

Watch this short video about Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – What does it mean and why it matters

It is important to remember that antibiotics do not treat or prevent viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19. Try our quiz to raise awareness

Find out more about how you can treat yourself better without antibiotics: Treat Yourself Better

How long is someone contagious after a viral infection? – NHS (

If you do have any unused antibiotics then now is a good time to return them to your pharmacist, who will dispose of them safely. Don’t allow them to end up in our waste or wastewater systems – this will only contribute further to the problem.

Avian Influenza

Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by the influenza A virus. Birds are the hosts for most avian influenza viruses and a variety of influenza subtypes can be found in birds, particularly in waterfowl and shore birds. Domestic poultry are especially vulnerable, and the virus can rapidly cause epidemics in flocks. You can find out more and how to report.

If you suspect bird flu in poultry or other captive birds, you must report it immediately by calling 03000 200 301. Call Defra on 03459 33 55 77 if you find:

  • one or more dead birds of prey
  • 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese, and ducks)
  • 5 or more dead birds of any species

Do not touch or pick up a dead or visibly sick wild bird.

Tick Awareness and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks. It is usually easier to treat if it is diagnosed early. Not all ticks in England carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. But it is still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible, just in case. You can find out more about Lyme disease and the signs and symptoms.

Emergency planning and response

Devon Emergency Planning includes planning and preparations for severe weather and environmental hazards.

For more information about health protection and the role of Devon County Council contact the public health team on 01392 383000 or email

Find services, groups and clubs in Devon on the Pinpoint website

Go to Pinpoint

Find advice on how to stay healthy and well on the OneSmallStep website

Go to OneSmallStep