Reality Alert: A camp was forced to close for weeks after multiple campers and counselors got sick with a virus that swept through the camp. The contagious stomach bug spread easily in the close quarters of the camp cabins and children had to be sent home to recover. The camp had to cancel several weeks of programming for staff to recover and to clean/sanitize the camp.
Illnesses at Camp
Bringing a bunch of children together in small camp cabins can mean illnesses are passed quickly among campers. According to the American Camp Association, or ACA, children at camps are more likely to get sick than to be injured. Mild colds may not be a big deal if several children are exposed, but highly contagious stomach viruses or MRSA can be more serious, requiring medical treatment. If enough people get sick, a camp may be forced to close. This is disappointing to campers and results in lost income for the camp.
Keeping Campers and Counselors Healthy
Fortunately, there are steps camps can take to keep campers and staff members healthy. The ACA offers these tips for camps to manage communicable diseases at camp:
- Before camp begins, send information to parents about communicable diseases, such as what symptoms they should look for in their child and when they should stay home from camp. This will help keep illnesses from even entering camp.
- Establish a process for screening campers when they arrive at camp. Create a policy that states the camp retains the right to prevent a child from coming to camp if they are ill and pose a threat to other campers.
- Establish policies that prevent the spread of disease throughout camp. For campers, this includes frequent handwashing, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, covering coughs and sneezes, and prohibiting sharing of personal items like towels or pillows.
- Establish policies to keep camp counselors healthy too. Encourage them to get enough rest and take good care of themselves.
- Regularly evaluate the health care practices and procedures at the camp and update as needed. New diseases and outbreaks may require new guidelines.