Communicable Diseases

On May 5, 2023, after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization determined that “COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health  issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern”  (PHEIC). In that context, it is time for OBC to shift our health policies and procedures from a focus on COVID-19, to a general focus on preventing, mitigating, and treating  communicable diseases on our programs and at our facilities. As there are currently  several communicable diseases posing a threat to people in Canada, including COVID 19, influenza (flu), and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), OBC maintains a high  level of vigilance.

The following information is shared from OBC’s Communicable Disease Protocol, which outlines our response to communicable diseases posing a threat to the people participating in our programs. Regional Safety Officers are responsible for ensuring protocol is followed as well as monitoring and regularly checking the instructions from their regional public health unit regarding diseases of concern for their region. Instructions given by public health units supersedes information laid out on this page in the event of disagreement.

Symptoms

If a student or staff member experiences a symptom that might indicate a  communicable disease, this must be reported to the appropriate supervisor  immediately. The person’s symptoms should be evaluated in terms of type and severity,  and the person should be monitored at regular intervals until symptom free. This does  not apply to mild symptoms that are attributable to a separate, previously diagnosed  condition such as seasonal allergies. The action taken will depend on the type, severity,  and duration of the symptoms. If two or more people at the same location experience  Symptoms of Concern (see below), the situation should be reported to the regional  health unit as a possible outbreak.

Mild Symptoms

  • Mild cough
  • Runny nose
  • Mild tiredness
  • Slight headache
  • Sore throat

Symptoms of Concern

  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent cough
  • Malaise or extreme tiredness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms at an OBC Base Facility

Any symptoms experienced by staff or students will be reported to the Regional Safety  Officer immediately.

Staff or students who are experiencing mild symptoms (see above) may remain on  base, providing they:

  • Wear a mask
  • Observe social distancing (keep 2m+ away from others)
  • Do not prepare food for others
  • Social distance from others when eating

Staff or students who are experiencing symptoms of concern (see above) should either  return home or isolate at base, if the base has the capacity to support this. Anyone in  isolation must:

  • Remain in isolation until 24 hours after symptoms have resolved (48 hours for nausea, diarrhea or vomiting)
  • Reside in a separate cabin or tent from others
  • Eat separately from others. Precautions including the wearing of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as medical masks and gloves should be taken to avoid contamination during the transfer of food to and from the  patient

If symptoms of concern worsen or persist longer than 72 hours, the patient should  return home and seek medical care. They may rejoin the program once they are  symptom free.

Symptoms on an OBC Backcountry Field Program

Any symptoms experienced by staff or students will be reported to the Regional Safety  Officer immediately.

Staff or students who are experiencing mild symptoms (see above) may remain on the  course, providing they:

  • Wear a mask
  • Observe social distancing (keep 2m+ away from others)
  • Do not prepare food for others
  • Eat separately from others

Consider evacuation for staff or students who are experiencing symptoms of concern  (see above). In some circumstances, with the approval of the Regional Safety Officer, it  may be possible to isolate a symptomatic patient in the field.

Anyone in isolation must:

  • Remain in isolation until 24 hours after symptoms have resolved (48 hours for nausea, diarrhea or vomiting)
  • Sleep in a separate tent or shelter from others
  • Maintain strict physical distancing
  • Eat separately from others. Precautions including the wearing of appropriate PPE should be taken to avoid contamination during the transfer of food to and from the patient

If symptoms of concern worsen or persist longer than 72 hours, the patient should be  evacuated to medical care. Those who wish to re-join the program must be symptom free.

All field courses should bring sufficient PPE. At a minimum, this means:

  • One medical mask per person
  • Two N95 or KN95 masks
  • Five pairs medical gloves

 

Staff who are examining a symptomatic patient or administering first aid to a  symptomatic patient will wear medical masks and gloves. Staff are strongly encouraged  to wear appropriate PPE during other first aid situations.

All backcountry courses should have a tent plan that allows for isolation if necessary;  eg: if using a group shelter or multiple person tent plan, consider packing one solo tent  in addition, for isolation needs.

Vaccinations

As of January 11, 2023, we no longer require students or staff to be vaccinated against  COVID-19.

We strongly recommend that all students and staff get vaccinated against COVID 19, seasonal influenza, and other diseases as recommended by their regional  health authority.

Testing

As of May 5, 2023, we no longer require COVID-19 testing for our programs or facilities.

This protocol was reviewed and approved by OBC National Medical Advisor Dr. David  Wong on June 8, 2023.