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Infectious Diseases – Guidelines for Schools

Students and staff may be exposed to a variety of communicable diseases and illnesses during their years in school settings.

If your child is sick, or if you are a school staff member who is sick, please stay home – break the chain of infection by stopping exposure to illness.

 

If a child/student or staff is having any of the following symptoms, they should automatically be excluded from attending:

  • Fever 38.0°C or higher –  stay home until the fever is gone and feeling better for at least 24 hours
  • Respiratory symptoms that are new or unusual – stay home for 24 hours minimum (this includes cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, and shortness of breath)
  • Gastro symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) that are new or unusual – stay home for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped

Children over 2 should wear a well-fitting mask on the bus and at school until 10 days after the start of any kind of cold/ influenza/ COVID-19-like symptoms

 

Student Illnesses

School principals are legally required to report suspect or confirmed Diseases of Public Health Significance (DoPHS) to their local health unit. A list of reportable diseases, timeline requirements for reporting, and the process for reporting the confirmed or suspected diseases can be found here.

When investigating disease of public health significance, HNHU may contact the school principal (or designate) to request additional information to inform our assessment. If the disease is confirmed, HNHU will conduct further assessment to determine the risk to others.

The school may become aware of a student diagnosed* with a disease of public health significance (DoPHS) in two ways:

  1. From the parent (e.g. when the parent phones the school to notify the child is off sick)
  2. From the health unit (e.g. during our investigation the school is named and the DoPHS in question requires notification and follow up with the school).

*The school does not need to confirm the diagnosis with a physician before reporting to the health unit.

 

To report a disease of public health significance, a school can:

Email: [email protected] OR phone the School Health Team: 519-426-6170 ext. 3285

Please provide the following information:

  • Name of confirmed/suspected infectious disease
  • Name, address, date of birth, sex and grade of student(s)
  • Parent/guardian(s) name and contact information

 

Notifying staff, students and families

If HNHU identifies that there is a risk to other members of the school community, we will work together with the school principal and appropriate school board to ensure that students, families, and school employees are properly notified.

Schools are asked not to communicate information about infectious diseases without reviewing with us. This helps to ensure that the public receives accurate information and follow-up recommendations (e.g. to seek medical attention) for protecting themselves and their families.


Staff Illnesses

The Health Protection and Promotion Act does not require that principals report illness of staff members to public health.


Influenza

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by viruses that affect the nose, throat and lungs. Flu season, the peak time for influenza, is November through April each year.

The flu shot is your best defence to protect yourself and your family against the flu.

 

How do you get the flu?

The flu is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing, or by touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus.

To protect yourself from the flu you can:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and running water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Frequently clean and disinfect common surfaces and items
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Get your flu shot

 

Symptoms

Symptoms usually start one to four days after being exposed to the virus. Most people will recover in seven to 10 days. Individuals in high-risk groups could experience more severe complications.

You may have the flu if you have:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Extreme weakness and tiredness

 

Cold or Flu?

The flu is often confused with the common cold (rhinovirus).

Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense.

 

Complications

Flu-related complications can affect anyone but they are more common for those in a high risk group. This includes:

  • Older adults (people 65+ years)
  • Children under five years old
  • Pregnant women
  • People with underlying health conditions

Complications from the flu can include pneumonia, which is a serious illness. It is estimated that flu causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada each year.

 


Flu vaccine

Anyone aged six months and older who works, lives or goes to school in Ontario is eligible to receive the flu vaccine.

Where to get the flu shot:

  • Health care providers
  • Pharmacies (must have a health card and be five years of age or older)
  • Walk-in clinics