All staff should undergo a full occupational health check before starting employment; this includes ensuring they are up to date with immunisations, including Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR).
Staff employed in schools, nurseries and other childcare settings should have the same rules regarding exclusion applied to them as are applied to the children. They may return to work when they are no longer infectious, provided they feel well enough to do so.
It should be noted that the greatest risk to pregnant women from such infections comes from their own household rather than the workplace. However, if a pregnant woman develops a rash, or is in direct contact with someone with a rash who is potentially infectious, she should consult her doctor or midwife.
Chickenpox can affect the pregnancy if a woman has not already had the infection. The GP and midwife should be informed promptly. A blood test may be arranged to check immunity if it isn’t already known. Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox therefore anyone who has not had chickenpox is potentially vulnerable to the infection if they have close contact with a case of shingles.
Measles during pregnancy can result in early delivery or even loss of the baby. If a pregnant woman is exposed, the midwife should be informed immediately. All female staff under the age of 25 years, working with young children, should have evidence of 2 doses of MMR vaccine or a positive history of measles.
Rubella (German measles)
If a pregnant woman comes into contact with German measles she should inform her GP and midwife immediately. The infection may affect the developing baby if the woman is not immune and is exposed in early pregnancy.
All female staff under the age of 25 years, working with young children, should have evidence of 2 doses of MMR vaccine or a positive history of Rubella.
Slapped cheek disease (Parvovirus B19)
Slapped cheek disease (Parvovirus B19) can occasionally affect an unborn child if exposed early in pregnancy. The pregnant woman should inform their midwife promptly.
Food handling staff
Food handlers and catering staff may present a particular risk to the health of their pupils and staff if they become infected (or have close contact) with diseases that can be transmitted to others via the medium of food or drink. These diseases commonly affect the gastrointestinal system (stomach and bowel) and usually cause diarrhoea or vomiting, or both.
Food handling staff suffering from such diseases must be excluded from all food handling activity in the school or nursery setting until advised by the local Environmental Health Officer that they are clear to return to work. There are legal powers for the formal exclusion of such cases but usually voluntary exclusion will suffice with ‘off work’ certificates from the GP, as necessary.
For more advice and information read the available guidance from Public Health England.