Childcare Center Outbreak: Understanding How it Spread
Every outbreak of COVID-19 serves as an opportunity to learn more about the virus and how it spreads. We recently reported a large outbreak of people who tested positive for the virus associated with a Dane County childcare center, which included the B.1.1.7 variant. As of today, 21 children and childcare workers have tested positive, along with 18 family members of these children or workers.
As with all childcare centers and schools, a number of practices were in place to prevent disease spread, but with help from the center, our site investigators, contact tracers and data team determined two major factors that contributed to the spread in this case: classroom crossover and the variant itself.
The outbreak involved families with children in different classrooms, meaning a person from one classroom was infected, the virus spread at home to a family member that attends a different classroom, and then back to other people in the new classroom. After cases are detected, siblings of someone who tested positive must stay home until they meet public health criteria for returning. However, with a more contagious variant, that can be harder to catch quickly.
The other contributing factor is simply the variant. We know that the B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, is now the most dominant form of COVID-19 currently circulating in the U.S. Viruses constantly change and mutate, which means new variants are expected. Research shows this variant spreads more easily and quickly, which ultimately leads to more cases.
What can we do?
Monitor any and all symptoms
Most of the children associated with the outbreak had very mild symptoms. This really reinforces the need to monitor any and all possible symptoms. Don’t assume it’s just seasonal allergies or a cold. Symptoms of COVID-19 that are common in children can include fever, cough, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, and nasal congestion. When in doubt, get tested. Anyone 12 months old and older is now able to get a test at the Alliant Energy Center.
Get the vaccine
Now more than ever, as variants of COVID-19 continue to spread, it’s vitally important that you get vaccinated. It is the best way to protect ourselves and each other and prevent the spread of infection. Children are not currently authorized to get the vaccine, but we can surround kids with a protective circle of vaccinated adults. That includes their parents, grandparents, coaches, and teachers. The vaccines currently available are proven to be safe and effective. Register to make your appointment at vaccinate.wi.gov and to find additional vaccination options, visit our website.