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Social distancing encompasses non-pharmaceutical measures for controlling the transmission of infectious disease through reduction in the frequency of physical contact between individuals.

Large-scale methods of social distancing include:

  • Closing schools, child care and elder care centers
  • Closing workplaces
  • Telecommuting, videoconferencing and telephone conferencing
  • Cancelling public gatherings
  • Closing public recreational facilities
  • Limiting mass transit
  • Implementing community-wide quarantine or "stay at home" days
  • Public education on hygiene and cough etiquette.


Small-scale methods of social distancing include:

  • Maintaining three feet of space between oneself and others
  • Avoiding shaking hands, hugging or kissing
  • Avoiding crowded, enclosed spaces such as grocery and department stores, movie theatres, gas stations, schools, and sporting events
  • Limiting shopping trips to once a week
  • Using N95 style respirator masks
  • Washing hands after touching items touched, breathed upon or coughed upon by others
  • Assigning a single caretaker to a sick person
  • Household quarantine
  • Avoiding smoking and smokers
  • Paying for gasoline at the pump rather than at the counter.

Resources Edit


Interim CDC Guidance for Nonpharmaceutical Community Mitigation in Response to Human Infections with Swine Influenza (H1N1) Virus
U.S. Centers for Disease Control, April 26, 2009

Targeted Social Distancing Design for Pandemic Influenza
Robert J. Glass et al.
Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 12, No. 11, November 2006

HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan, Supplement 8: Community Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, May 2007

Nonpharmaceutical Interventions for Pandemic Influenza, National and Community Measures
World Health Organization
Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 12, No. 1, January 2006

Social distancing support guidelines for pandemic readiness
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, March 2008

CDC Podcast: Slowing the Next Pandemic: Survey of Community Mitigation Strategies
U.S. Centers for Disease Control, April 29, 2008

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