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Public Health Threats

A public health threat at Ryerson is a rare (but possible) emergency health-related situation that occurs when a communicable disease is found to pose a threat to the university community. 

Communicable diseases are of specific concern to the university community because they have the potential to cause widespread adverse health effects if not controlled. Moreover, they are known to be a major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide.

About communicable diseases

Communicable diseases are illnesses caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa and worms. They can be transmitted through direct routes such as direct contact with blood or bodily fluids or indirect routes such as the ingestion of contaminated food or water. 

Some specific examples include:

  • foodborne illnesses (e.g. salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and listeriosis, etc.);
  • bloodborne pathogens (e.g. acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and hepatitis B, etc.); and 
  • vaccine-preventable diseases (e.g. measles, chickenpox, mumps, etc.). 

For a comprehensive list of communicable diseases, visit the City of Toronto List of Reportable Diseases page, external link.

Preventing the spread of communicable diseases starts with you

As a public, post-secondary institution with a large and dense population, Ryerson is susceptible to individual cases and outbreaks of communicable diseases. Specifically, the daily interaction between students, staff and members of the public provides numerous opportunities for pathogens to be transmitted between members of the community. 

It is therefore essential to prevent and control the spread of any communicable disease on campus by each individual taking proactive measures such as:

  • following good hygiene practices (i.e. frequent handwashing);
  • getting vaccinated and ensuring vaccinations are up to date;
  • minimizing contact with infected individuals; and 
  • complying with legal requirements on reporting to ensure appropriate measures are implemented to control the spread of disease.

What to do if you suspect you have contracted a communicable disease

If you suspect that you may have contracted a communicable disease, you should visit your healthcare practitioner or primary physician immediately. 

What to do if you become aware of or contract a communicable disease

If you become aware of a confirmed communicable diseases (i.e. from a friend or colleague) or contract a communicable disease, we urge you to notify Ryerson’s biosafety officer at ehs@ryerson.ca or 416-979-5000, ext. 554212 as soon as you become aware. By doing so, you can help to minimize the spread of illness amongst the community,

If the case is deemed to be communicable, the biosafety officer will work under the direction of Toronto Public Health to implement their directives in preventing further spread of the disease. Based on Toronto Public Health’s directive, the biosafety officer may be required to notify other Ryerson community members who may be affected by the confirmed case, investigate potential exposures and disseminate any communications (e.g. notices, letters and directives, etc.) provided by Toronto Public Health to the necessary departments, schools, residences, faculties, staff and/or students. 

The response protocol and internal coordination is determined on a case by case basis. In conjunction with the university's Public Health Threats Committee, the biosafety officer may invite university stakeholders to assist in the management of the communicable disease.

In Canada, cases of certain communicable diseases are legally reportable to Toronto Public Health and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and notifiable to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Reporting cases of communicable diseases is critical to help ensure the university is addressing any isolated cases in order to ultimately prevent further spread of disease on campus.

Frequently asked questions

If you are not on campus, we advise that you should visit your healthcare practitioner or primary physician as soon as possible and report your symptoms to them for evaluation. 

If you are already on campus and feeling ill, we advise you should visit your healthcare practitioner or primary physician as soon as possible and report your symptoms to them for evaluation. 

If it is a medical emergency, call 911. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency, you should call 911. It's better to be safe and let the dispatcher determine if you need emergency assistance. Otherwise, visit your healthcare practitioner or primary physician immediately.

Ask if the student has reported the disease to their healthcare practitioner or primary physician. If not, advise them to do so as soon as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Ryerson’s biosafety officer at ehs@ryerson.ca or 416-979-5000, ext. 554212.

If it is a medical emergency, call 911. If you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency, you should call 911. It's better to be safe and let the dispatcher determine if you need emergency assistance. 

Otherwise, recommend to your friend that they visit their healthcare practitioner or primary physician immediately.

Monitor your own symptoms and contact your healthcare practitioner or primary physician. For more information, visit the Toronto Public Health’s Medication and Vaccine Fact Sheets page., external link

If there is a communicable disease outbreak at Ryerson that impacts our normal operations, impacted Ryerson community members will be notified through their Ryerson email accounts. All staff and students should be checking their Ryerson email for these types of updates.

If the outbreak is localized to an individual, it is important to note, that a mass communication to the entire Ryerson community may not take place. Only in instances where there is a risk to the entire Ryerson community, will a university-wide communication go out advising on school closures, or steps to take to minimize the spread of the disease.

In some instances, university wide proactive messaging may be sent to your Ryerson email account. Updates on the Ryerson University website and Ryerson’s Twitter account, external link may also be provided.

Inform your manager or supervisor and immediately remove yourself from food handling duties and food handling areas until you are cleared to return to work by your healthcare practitioner or primary physician.

Media requests about public health threats at Ryerson

If you have any media requests about public health threats and/or communicable diseases at Ryerson, please contact Lindsey Craig, public affairs and communications specialist, at lindseyc@ryerson.ca

General inquiries about public health threats

If you have any general inquiries about public health threats and/or communicable diseases, please contact Ryerson’s biosafety officer at ehs@ryerson.ca or 416-979-5000, ext. 554212.