Childcare setting gastroenteritis and acute respiratory illness outbreaks

Gastroenteritis (or gastro) is a common infection of the stomach and bowel that causes vomiting and/or diarrhoea. It is usually a mild illness and can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria and parasites.

Acute respiratory illness includes common infections which cause symptoms affecting the respiratory tract. There are many viruses which cause acute respiratory illness in young children. Some common respiratory viruses include rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and parainfluenza. COVID-19 also causes acute respiratory illness. The symptoms caused by these viruses can range from mild (runny nose, cough, fever) to more severe (inflammation of the small airways, called bronchiolitis, and pneumonia). The spread of all respiratory viruses can be reduced using the same infection control practices.

Preventing spread of infections

Discourage people from attending the childcare centre if they are unwell with any symptoms of gastroenteritis or acute respiratory illness. Unwell siblings should not attend the centre during drop off and pick up.

Children who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 must isolate at home. See children and COVID-19 for more information.

Exclude children, educators or other staff with gastroenteritis symptoms from the centre until 48 hours has passed since the last loose bowel motion or vomit. Exclude people with acute respiratory symptoms until they are well.

Use the Gastroenteritis Line List for Child Care Centres to record details of all unwell people, or you can use your own institutional illness register.

For more information about minimising the spread of disease, see Staying Healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.

See the ACT Education Directorate website for more information about preventing and managing COVID-19 in early childhood education and care services and ACT public schools.

Reporting a gastroenteritis outbreak

Under the Public Health Act 1997, childcare facilities are required to notify Communicable Disease Control if they have two or more cases of gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and/or vomiting) among children and/or staff in a 24-hour period. For childcare settings, only outbreaks of gastroenteritis are notifiable to ACT Health. You are not required to notify ACT Health of any outbreaks of respiratory illness in your childcare service.

Report a gastroenteritis outbreak in a childcare facility. You can also call the Health Protection Service, Communicable Disease Control Information Line on 02 5124 9213 during business hours. A Public Health Officer will take your details and provide you with public health advice to help limit the spread of the outbreak.

Infection control

Limit the spread of infectious diseases by ensuring appropriate infection control practices are adhered to, year-round. Infection control is important to minimise transmission and control outbreaks of gastroenteritis in childcare centres. Use effective hand hygiene and exclude unwell children and staff. Other infection control measures include using personal protective equipment and effective environmental cleaning.

For advice about infection control, call the Communicable Disease Control Information Line on 02 5124 9213 and ask to speak to a member of the Infection Control team.

Resources to assist with infection control

Page last updated on: 21 Mar 2023