Handling Communicable Diseases in Schools

Disclaimer: The Region of Peel School Health Reference Guide is a supplementary resource to relevant school board policies. Always refer to school board policy first if you have questions or concerns.

Role of the school

  • Manage sick children
    • In general, it is the role of the school to determine when a child should not attend school due to illness. Please consult your school or board policies.
    • The exclusion of a child or staff may be ordered by the Medical Officer of Health for specified diseases (see role of Peel Public Health)
  • Report certain communicable diseases
    • Report certain communicable diseases (see when to report a communicable disease).
    • The school is not required to determine what disease a sick child has been diagnosed with.

When to report a communicable disease?

Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, school administrators are to report to the local Medical Officer of Health any person who may be infected with a communicable disease. However, the act does not specify which disease to report.

The following will help you decide when to report to the Medical Officer of Health (Peel Public Health) that a student(s) in your school has a communicable disease.

Schools are asked to report:

1. Certain diseases, confirmed by a doctor, that require an immediate response by public health to prevent further spread.

To report: Please call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700

Important: It is not necessary for schools to report other less urgent diseases such as hepatitis, lyme disease or sexually transmitted infections. These diseases are already reported to Public Health by laboratories and community physicians as required by provincial law.

Also, individual cases of common childhood illnesses such as pink eye, hand foot and mouth disease or ring worm are not reportable to Public Health unless special surveillance is being conducted on one of these diseases, see Diseases under special surveillance

For more information on common childhood illnesses:

If unsure whether or not to report a communicable disease, please call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700.

2. Diseases under special surveillance.

This would be arranged separately with the school board during times when Peel Health is monitoring a certain disease in the community. Chickenpox is an example of a surveillance initiative.

To report Chickenpox in your school please use Notification of Chickenpox (Varicella) in Schools form.

See sample Chickenpox notification letter for parents.

3. Unusual increases (or clusters) in the number of students who have vomiting and diarrhea or ‘influenza-like’ illnesses (runny nose, cough, fever/chills) around the same time.

Reporting these clusters gives Peel Health the opportunity to investigate possible food borne illnesses and provide consultation on infection prevention and control measures for the school.
More information on vomiting and diarrhea in school

To report: Please call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700

Handling sick children in schools

Establish and follow school or board policies on:

  • Management of sick children.
  • Management of infectious communicable diseases.
  • Exclusion of sick children.

Unwell students with symptoms such as fever, rash, sore throat and vomiting/diarrhea should be encouraged to stay home when ill. This will help to reduce the spread of infection in your school. In these common situations, principals should use their discretion and/or Board policy to decide whether a student should be at school or home.

There may be some circumstances when principals will need to work with Peel Public Health to exclude students from school because of a disease investigation. Peel Public Health will notify the Board and schools of these situations and will provide exclusion and readmission guidelines as required.

Visit Managing Infections for more information on specific disease exclusion and re-admission guidelines.

Role of Peel Public Health

Peel Public Health has responsibility for the control of communicable diseases in the community through screening, education, immunization, treatment, and follow-up of cases of certain diseases and their contacts.

The activities undertaken by Public Health are specific to each disease and depend on the severity, mode of transmission, etc. Peel Public Health will provide:

  • Information on infection prevention and control.
  • Direction regarding the exclusion and readmission of individuals when required for certain communicable diseases.
  • Written information and consultation to schools to guide the management of communicable diseases, including consultation on the management of sick children and staff, e.g. Public Health can review draft policies to assess for consistency with the clinical and public health requirements.
  • Guidelines for staff health requirements, e.g. records of immunization, screening for tuberculosis and risk management for infections of concern.
  • Telephone support to schools

Details regarding the diagnosis and treatment of an individual are confidential and cannot be shared with school personnel.

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