When multiple children or early years employees become ill in a short time period public health may want to declare an outbreak within a classroom or possibly the entire centre. Typically an outbreak is declared when 3 or more individuals become ill with similar symptoms within 24 hours. Licensed child care operators must contact their local public health unit when 3 or more individuals from a classroom become ill with similar symptoms in a 24 hour time period. Typically licensed child care centres will experience enteric outbreaks which includes gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Enteric outbreaks can happen easily in infant programs where children are in diapers and orally exploring their environment.
Enhanced infection control measures will be instructed by public health if outbreak status is declared. These measures may include longer periods of exclusion from care for individuals with symptoms, increased concentration of disinfection solutions, enhanced cleaning for the learning space and signage visibly placed so others are aware of the ongoing outbreak status. Child care operators must notify anyone impacted by the outbreak status. Licensed child care operators will be required to track the number of individuals with symptoms, the type of symptoms, and their attendance records to be shared with their local public health units. Tracking charts are available through public health. Public health will assign an outbreak number for each case which must be reported as a serious occurrence with the Ministry of Education. Public health will work closely with licensed child care operators to remove the outbreak status as soon as possible.
Covid-19 and Pandemic Preparedness
The Covid-19 worldwide pandemic caught many countries off guard in March 2020. Supplies of PPE were limited and much was unknown about this new virus. Vaccines were developed and administered in the second year of the pandemic, providing some relief from the life-threatening impacts. Vaccine development continues as the Covid-19 virus mutates. Covid-19 is no longer considered an worldwide emergency but it continues to mutate and circulate in the population. Many of the preventative measures have been lifted in early years settings but it is prudent that licensed child care organizations are prepared to implement preventative measures again in the future.
Scientists have warned that future pandemics are inevitable so it is important that lessons are learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. Licensed child care organizations must continue to be up to date in infection control prevention and management strategies. This may include the development of a pandemic plan. A pandemic plan may help prepare for the financial constraints a pandemic may cause or aid in the storage of resources to implement when necessary.