Disease transmission in schools and childcare

Day care and school staff have a key role in preventing the transmission of diseases in day care and the school environment.

While it is often difficult to prevent the transmission of common respiratory (colds/flu) and gastroenteritis infections that occur, every effort should be made to minimise the spread of infection by encouraging:

  • staff and children at school or childcare to stay at home in the early stages of illness as at this stage they can be infectious and shed the virus, bacteria or parasite through coughing, sneezing, contaminating surfaces and personal contact
  • school staff and students who are ill should not to return to work/daycare until they are symptom free if they have a cold or flu and for at least 24 hours if they have had gastroenteritis
  • staff and children at day care, healthcare workers and food handlers who have had gastroenteritis should not return to work until they are symptom free for at least 48 hours
  • parents to seek medical advice if their child has ongoing symptoms of illness.

An outline of preventative strategies for preventing transmission of disease and recommendations for cleaning the environment can be obtained from Staying Healthy in Child Care (external site), a government publication that provides comprehensive information about the management of a range of common childhood diseases www.nhmrc.gov.au

Day care and school staff should play a role in encouraging parents to ensure that their child’s immunisation is up to date; they should request a copy of the child’s ACIR immunisation statement to update their centre register/database for reference in times such as infectious disease outbreak.

Many of the childhood infectious diseases require student/staff to be excluded from day care or school for a recommended period of time; if they are unable to provide evidence of immunisation against specific diseases that are known to be highly transmissible they will be excluded.

Strategies to prevent transmission of infection

Hand washing with soap and water for at least 15 seconds before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, changing nappies, after blowing your nose with a tissue and after any contamination of the hands with body fluids such as blood and vomit.

Effective cleaning with detergent and water, followed by rinsing and drying will remove the bulk of germs from environmental surfaces (refer to your school/day care policy or Staying Healthy in Child Care (external site).

Use of appropriate cleaning tools and use of protective personal equipment (gloves, masks) is important and should be easily accessible to clean up spills immediately, to prevent aerosol spread of viruses and bacteria.

Discuss issues related to managing suspected or confirmed cases of infectious diseases with staff at your local public health unit (Healthy WA).


Last reviewed: 11-10-2023
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Public Health