Reporting outbreaks of illness in a school to Ottawa Public Health

A school should report an outbreak of illness to Ottawa Public Health (OPH):

If there are more than 15% of children and/or staff absent with similar symptoms within the same classroom or program OR within the entire school on the same day.

Respiratory illness symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, congestion, sneezing, sore throat or difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms may include headache, sore muscles, fatigue, poor appetite and irritability.

Enteric illness symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramps. 

A school should also report unusual increases in absenteeism due to illness to OPH

Increases in absenteeism due to illness above usual rates are reportable to Ottawa Public Health. If children and/or staff are absent with similar symptoms at a rate that is higher than usual for your school, an outbreak may exist. 

Report to OPH

If an outbreak is suspected, notify OPH at 613-580-6744, ext 26325, Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm or 3-1-1 after hours.

If an outbreak is confirmed, OPH will provide recommendations to manage the outbreak and monitor the outbreak daily until absenteeism rates return to baseline

When an outbreak is suspected or confirmed, implement outbreak control measures

  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and common areas
  • Post signs to alert staff and parents / guardians of increased absenteeism or outbreak
  • Clean and disinfect toys and play areas twice daily and when visibly soiled
  • Exclude ill children and staff
  • If possible, keep ill children in a separate supervised area until a parent or guardian takes them home
  • Be diligent to perform hand hygiene

Do you have children absent with other illnesses?

Refer to the Guidelines for Communicable Disease and Other Childhood Health Issues for Schools and Child Care Centres. If you do not have the guidelines, visit or call OPH at 613-580-6744.

Outbreaks of respiratory and enteric illnesses are reportable to the local health unit under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), 1990

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