How to respond to an outbreak of infection at your school
At the end of last year, around 60 schools in North East England were hit by an outbreak of Norovirus. Schools had to close whilst deep cleans were conducted to prevent further spread of the bug. Meanwhile, those showing symptoms of being unwell were advised to stay away from schools and places of work for at least 48 hours.
Let’s face it, we spend half our lives teaching children to share; share books, share toys, and share games, and the other half wishing they didn’t share so much. With coughs and sneezes and lots of children in close proximity, schools are a breeding ground for winter vomiting bugs. These kinds of seasonal bugs are said to affect between 600,000 and a million people each year.
There are some simple steps you can take to minimise the risk of spreading Norovirus or other vomiting bugs in your school such as:
- Frequently washing your hands with soap and encouraging children to do the same.
- Ensuring that an infected child doesn’t share blankets or toys with others.
- Keeping a child with Norovirus away from other children, or vulnerable adults, wherever possible.
However, if, despite your best efforts, the classroom is starting to look a little sparse, maybe it’s time to fight back against the virus outbreak in your school.
When is an outbreak considered an ‘outbreak’?
According to the government, an outbreak or incident may be defined as:
‘1) an incident in which 2 or more people experiencing a similar illness are linked in time or place or
2) a greater than expected rate of infection compared with the usual background rate for the place and time where the outbreak has occurred’
As soon as an outbreak has been identified, the Headteacher should contact their local health protection team. They’ll discuss the situation with you and confirm whether any actions are required.
If you are unsure whether the occurrence of an infectious illness at your school constitutes an outbreak, call your local health protection team.
However, before picking up the phone, make sure you have the following info to hand:
- Total numbers affected (including any staff)
- Date(s) when symptoms first appeared
- Number of classes affected
You can find a full list of notifiable illnesses here.
When to close a school following an outbreak of infection
Last year, Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College closed because over 800 students were off sick with Norovirus. Closing a school is a serious decision though. It affects students’ learning but also a parent’s ability to get to work, and therefore, potentially, a business’s ability to open. There seems to be no hard and fast rule on when to close a school, but if your local health protection team feel that a school closure is necessary to enable a deep clean, they’ll advise you accordingly.
What is a deep clean?
The government has issued extensive guidelines on the best way to keep a school clean and minimise the spread of viruses or infections. Through a combination of contract cleaning, with separate cleaning equipment for separate zones, and advice on how to clean toys and equipment and potentially biohazardous spills, it’s usually possible for schools to manage regular cleaning with some professional help. However, in the event of an outbreak, a deep clean may be necessary.
The intense nature of this type of clean will mean that it’s usually necessary to call in a professional cleaning team with experience in cleaning schools. Professional deep clean service providers like our teams at Rainbow are:
- Familiar with guidelines on the best way to clean schools.
- Have DBS checked staff available to conduct school cleans.
- Are used to working with schools either in term time, around the regular school day, outside of the school day, or during a school closure.
- Will be familiar with the different types of cleaning and the areas that require cleaning in schools – children use furniture and upholstery very differently to the way adults in an office would).
- Will be familiar in complying with a school’s deep cleaning plan.
If you require a deep clean or are interested to learn more about how a deep clean of your school, college or nursery can reduce the spread of illness, contact Rainbow. We have a 24/7 hotline, so you can get advice when you need it. Call us today on 01624 422 488. With over 60 branches of Rainbow around the UK, we’re bound to have a branch near you.