Department of Health

Acute respiratory infection management in residential care facilities

    Key messages

    • COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are very infectious causes of acute respiratory infection
    • People living in residential care facilities are at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 and influenza due to older age and/or comorbid conditions
    • Management of Acute Respiratory Infection outbreaks, including COVID-19 and influenza, in residential care facilities (RCFs)provides guidelines for preventing and managing outbreaks of acute respiratory infection, including COVID-19 and influenza
    • The Protocol to support joint management of a COVID-19 outbreak in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) formalises the coordination of activities in the preparedness and response to a COVID-19 outbreak in residential aged care facilities throughout Victoria.
    • Residential care facilities are strongly recommended to notify outbreaks of COVID-19, influenza and RSV to the department.

    Management of Acute Respiratory Outbreaks, including COVID-19 and influenza, in residential care facilities (RCFs)

    COVID-19 and influenza are highly infectious respiratory illnesses, which can be severe in some people, especially those living in residential care facilities.

    Management of Acute Respiratory Infection outbreaks, including COVID-19 and influenza, in residential care facilities (RCFs) provides information for residential care facilities on:

    • Prevention and preparedness for respiratory outbreaks, including COVID-19, influenza and RSV
    • Clinical presentation of acute respiratory infections, and people at risk for severe disease
    • Case, contact, exposure and outbreak definitions
    • How to detect and notify cases and outbreaks
    • How to manage COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks
    • How to manage influenza and other respiratory outbreaks

    Protocol to support joint management of a COVID-19 outbreak in residential aged care facilities (RACFs)

    The Protocol to support joint management of a COVID-19 outbreak in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) formalises the coordination of activities in the preparedness and response to a COVID-19 outbreak in RACFs throughout Victoria. This protocol outlines the roles and responsibilities of relevant parties, governance structures and expectations around timely information sharing. 

    The primary objective of this protocol is to support the ongoing health and wellbeing of all residents and staff in impacted RACFs.

    Acute respiratory infection outbreaks, including COVID-19 and influenza – key actions

    A number of key actions should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission within the facility. This helps manage the outbreak effectively and efficiently.

    The actions that should be undertaken immediately by the facility and its staff, particularly during the initial stages, are:

    • determine if you do have an outbreak
    • implement the appropriate infection prevention and control strategies in addition to standard precautions
    • testing of symptomatic residents and staff, and when recommended contacts, for respiratory viruses
    • Residential care facilities are strongly recommended to notify outbreaks of COVID-19, influenza and RSV to the department. 

    These steps should be taken for all respiratory outbreaks, and confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 and influenza

    Download the guidelines for detailed information.

    Prevention and preparedness

    When there is widespread community transmission of COVID-19 and/or influenza, it is expected that residents living in care facilities will be exposed, and subsequent cases/outbreaks in these settings may occur.

    Residential care facilities should put in place measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses entering the facility.

    Vaccination:

    Vaccines are available for COVID-19 and influenza. These vaccines are very effective in reducing severe illness. It is strongly recommended that both staff and residents are up to date with COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations, unless they have an exemption.

    Infection prevention control

    Implementing sufficient infection prevention control measures in residential care facilities is very important to both prevent respiratory illness and reduce the risk of transmission.

    Please see Infection prevention control resources - COVID-19. This page contains the following resources:

    • Infection prevention control (IPC) eLearnings
    • Videos on hand hygiene, how to correctly don and doff personal protective equipment
    • Department of Health infection prevention guidelines
    • Information on ventilation, cleaning, waste disposal
    • Information for the aged-care sector and;
    • Numerous posters to place in the facility

     

    Reviewed 22 December 2022

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