Note that these definitions continue to evolve based changing circumstances. They are current as of December 3, 2020.
- Droplet and contact precautions
- Additional precautions used for patients suspected or known to have an infection caused by microorganisms that are transmitted via large droplets. Droplets are expelled into the air immediately after someone coughs or sneezes, remain suspended for a very short time and then settle onto environmental surfaces. Droplets that have settled on surfaces are a risk if a person comes into contact with them; therefore droplet precautions encompass contact precautions.
- Generally, if you have spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of someone who is infectious with COVID-19, you are considered to have been exposed. However, this will NOT be considered exposure if appropriate PPE is worn. Note: exposure does not mean that a transmission has occurred, it means there is a risk that a transmission occurred.
- Enhanced surveillance
- This term applies to long-term care facilities only. A facility would enact enhanced surveillance when one of its health-care workers has COVID-19 and worked at the facility within 48 hours of their symptom onset. The facility might implement testing of individual staff and residents, and also put in place pre-emptive measures, such as separation of staff and reminders around health checks, to prevent an outbreak from happening.
- Incubation Period
- Current evidence suggests that the incubation period for COVID-19 is up to 14 days. The incubation period is the time from when a person is first exposed until symptoms appear. A close contact is likely to develop COVID-19 illness during this time.
- Infectious Period
For people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, the end of their infectious period is 10 days after the first onset of symptoms. After this time, a COVID-19 patient is unlikely to be infectious. The infectious period may be longer for people with more severe illness who require hospitalization.
A residual dry cough may persist for several weeks. The individual is not considered to be infectious, as long as all other symptoms have resolved (e.g., temperature is back to normal without the use of fever-reducing medication; improvement in respiratory, gastrointestinal and systemic symptoms).
- An outbreak is called by Public Health when there is evidence of a transmission of COVID-19 from one person to another within a unit or a facility. It doesn’t matter if the transmission was between health-care workers, patients/residents or both. Only a medical health officer can declare an outbreak. They take into account information from infection control, occupational health and other available data to determine the likelihood of a transmission having occurred.
- Outbreak stages
Declared Outbreak: Public Health declares the outbreak in a facility.
Concluded Outbreak: Public Health declares when an outbreak is concluded. Generally, it will be 28 days with no new cases after the date of symptom onset of the last lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis at the facility or from date the outbreak was declared, whichever is later. This uses the conservative two incubation periods of 14 days each.
- Period of Isolation
- The Period of Isolation is the length of time a person must avoid situations where they could come in contact with others in order to reduce the likelihood of passing COVID-19 on to others. In outbreak situations, where some symptomatic clients may not be tested, the period of isolation is at the discretion of the Medical Health Officer.
If you need to reach PHC’s Infection Prevention and Control Team (IPAC), please call local 69357. Do not contact individual IPAC team members.