Health Outbreaks and Pandemics


The U.S. has encountered many pandemics, including Spanish Influenza, HIV/AIDS, H1N1, and more recently, COVID-19. Early childhood settings have to adapt to every pandemic individually as each one requires different emergency responses to keep children and staff safe. Every early childhood program should have an emergency plan that addresses how their program prepares, responds, and recovers from health pandemics, influenza, and other illnesses. This plan should be adaptable for emerging needs and health concerns. Early care and education programs should communicate regularly with local public health experts to determine community risk, infection control measures, and to revise existing policies and services to children and families. Additionally, Head Start programs should utilize their Health Services Advisory Committee to build or adapt their emergency plans. This chapter provides information and resources on preparing, responding, and recovering from health outbreaks and pandemics.

Resource: CCDR Health and Safety Requirements Brief Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning

Standards and Best Practices Related to a Pandemic

There are early childhood program standards and past practices to guide your planning, policies, and procedures. There are also plenty of resources available locally, regionally, and nationally to help you develop the best plans and actions to protect your program’s children, staff members, and families.

Head Start Program Performance Standards

HSPPS § 1302.47.b.6

All staff systematically and routinely implement hygiene practices that, at a minimum, ensure:

(i)            Appropriate toileting, hand washing, and diapering procedures are followed;

(ii)           Safe food preparation; and,

(iii)          Exposure to blood and body fluids are handled consistent with standards of the Occupational Safety Health Administration.

HSPPS § 1302.47.b.2(i)

 (2) Equipment and materials. All indoor and outdoor play equipment, cribs, cots, feeding chairs, strollers, and other equipment used in the care of enrolled children, and as applicable, other equipment and materials meets:

(i) Be clean and safe for children’s use and are appropriately disinfected Head Start Program Policies and Regulations are available at

What is a Health Pandemic?

A health pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges and spreads at a time when most people do not have immunity or protection to fight the virus or disease.


Caring for Our Children

Visit the collection of national standards that represent best practices for quality health and safety policies in child care settings.

CFOC4 Standard 1.3.2 Caregiver’s/Teacher’s and Other Staff Qualifications

CFOC4 Standard 1.4.2 Orientation Training

CFOC4 Standard 1.4.4 Continuing Education/Professional Development/Training

CFOC4 Standard Observation of Staff

CFOC4 Standard Mutual Responsibility of Parents/Guardians and Staff

CFOC4 Standard 3.1.1 Conduct of Daily Health Check

CFOC4 Standard 3.2.3 Exposure to Body Fluids

CFOC4 Standard 3.6.1 Inclusion/Exclusion Due to Illness

CFOC4 Standard 3.6.2 Caring for Children Who Are Ill

CFOC4 Standard 3.6.4 Reporting Illness and Death

CFOC4 Standard 5.4.1 Toilet and Handwashing Areas

CFOC4 Chapter 7 Infectious Diseases

CFOC4 Standard 9.2.3 Health Policies

CFOC4 Standard Written Plan for Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza

CFOC4 Standard Health History

CFOC4 Standard 10.3.2 Advisory Groups

CFOC4 Standard Agency to Collaboration to Safeguard Children in Child Care

CFOC4 Standard 10.5.0 Health Department Responsibilities and Role

CFOC4 Standard 10.6.1 Caregiver/Teacher Training

For the most current Caring for Our Children Standards, see