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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
As a public institution, Ryerson operates in transparency, while respecting that health information is private. In the case that a communicable diseases is known to the university, all personal information is gathered and used in a restricted way, to ensure that the identity of students or staff is not released.
The university follows the criteria set out by the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), external link which sets out mandatory reporting requirements for health professionals in relation to communicable disease. Health professionals who have a duty to report communicable disease to the medical officer of health under the HPPA include physicians, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists, optometrists and naturopaths.
The Personal Health Information Protection Act , external link(PHIPA) permits health information custodians (HIC) to disclose a patient’s personal health information to a medical officer of health or the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the purpose of the HPPA. HICs who are also employees of a public institution subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), external link such as Ryerson, are encouraged to inform the university’s biosafety officer when they have reported suspected or confirmed cases of diseases of public health significance to Toronto Public Health in order to activate the response protocol.
Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC) are formal declarations by the World Health Organization (WHO), external link of "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response". Examples of past declarations include:
- H1N1 outbreak, external link (2009/2010);
- Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, external link (2014); and
- Zika virus epidemic, external link (2015/2016).
In such circumstances, the WHO declaration requires countries to enact a coordinated international response protocol which includes surveillance and monitoring to detect and contain the spread of disease.
When travelling to countries where public health threats are known to exist, Ryerson community members are advised to review the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories page, external link. These travel advisories provide up to date travel health notices, external link for travelling destinations that are experiencing a public health emergency of international concern.
When the WHO has initiated a declaration, Ryerson students, faculty and staff travelling to or returning from impacted countries should contact the Ryerson’s biosafety officer for assistance to understand individual responsibilities and what steps to take in order to reduce the risk of the spread of disease.
Phone: 416-979-5000, ext. 554212
Upon travelling to or returning from countries where public health threats have been declared or are on the rise
Any Ryerson student, faculty, staff or community member returning from a country that has a declared public health emergency of international concern may be subject to screening and inspection by Canadian Border Service Officers. When it is determined that there may have been exposure to the public health threat, the traveller may be referred to Canadian Border Service Quarantine Officers.
As part of their responsibilities as agents of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Border Service Quarantine Officers will provide you with specific instructions which may include following Public Health Agency of Canada's Centre for emergency preparedness and response quarantine protocols, external link, daily temperature monitoring, or check-ins with local public health units (i.e. Toronto Public Health for Toronto residents).
Employees should inform their supervisors when they are unable to return to work as a result of the Public Health Agency of Canada or Toronto Public Health directive.
Alternatively, employees can reach out to Ryerson’s biosafety officer who will contact the employee’s supervisor to confirm that public health protocols are required and in place. The biosafety officer will advise the supervisor of the employee’s expected date of return.
Supervisors are encouraged to contact the biosafety officer for assistance should they have any concerns or questions regarding travel to countries with declared public health emergencies. The biosafety officer can provide information on current protocols in place associated with any travel restrictions or quarantine processes that must be followed by employees.
Students should contact Ryerson’s International Office for information on student travel risk management. If directed, students should follow any quarantine requirements set out by the Canada Border Services Agency or Toronto Public Health authorities.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com or 416-979-5000, ext. 554212.