Germ Illustration

Identifying and Reporting an Outbreak


Daily surveillance of children and daily recording of any enteric and/or respiratory symptoms will give a clear picture of the baseline incidence in the child care centre. An outbreak may be occurring when there are clusters of cases, characterized by common symptoms, above the normal or baseline levels for the centre in a short period of time.

Early reporting of the suspect outbreak, along with implementation of infection control measures, will decrease the number of children and staff who could be affected and will also reduce the duration of the outbreak.

Enteric Illness

Signs and symptoms of enteric illnesses include:

  • more than one episode of diarrhea or vomiting, which may be accompanied by:
    • abdominal cramps/stomach aches
    • fever
    • nausea
    • loss of appetite
    • bloody and/or mucous stools.

It is important to determine whether the diarrhea may be a reaction to medication, change in diet or other reasons that may not be linked to an enteric illness.

Respiratory Illness

A respiratory infection usually starts with:

  • onset of a fever and may be accompanied with one or more of the following:
    • runny nose
    • cough
    • nasal congestion
    • sore throat
    • chills
    • muscle aches
    • fatigue
    • poor appetite
    • young children may also have diarrhea.

Be aware of any children in the child care centre with cancer, including leukemia or other immune deficiency illnesses. These children may need special attention due to increased risk of illness.

Identifying an Outbreak

A suspect outbreak exists when there is an increase in the baseline incidence indicating there are a higher than expected number of children or staff who are experiencing similar symptoms of illness.

To determine whether a suspect outbreak exists:

  • Review illness surveillance recording forms, communication books or daily log.
  • Identify similar symptoms of illness among the symptomatic children/staff.
  • Check recent child/staff absenteeism records.

Contact the health unit (1.888.221.2133) to discuss unusual clustering of symptoms.

Reporting an Outbreak

When several children and/or staff become ill on the same day, notify the health unit IMMEDIATELY.

Health unit staff will provide information to assist in bringing outbreaks under control and in communicating with parents if necessary. You will be given an outbreak number by the health unit.

Last modified: February 19, 2020