Communicable Disease

Communicable disease" means an illness because of a specific infectious agent or its toxic products that arises through transmission of that agent or its products from an infected person, animal, or inanimate reservoir to a susceptible host. The transmission may occur either directly or indirectly through an intermediate plant or animal host, a transmitting entity, or the inanimate environment.

- Montana Code Annotated 50-1-101

Montana DPHHS Communicable Disease Guide for Schools

This summary is a tool for school personnel. It is formatted by:

  • Frequently Asked Questions for Communicable Diseases in the School Setting
  • Signs and Symptoms Chart for Communicable Diseases
  • Disease List A-Z

It contains general information about communicable diseases, recommendations for communicable disease prevention, and recommendations and or requirements for exclusion of ill students. This document contains recommended procedures from science based literature to provide guidance to school personnel regarding the provision of services to students enrolled in Montana K-12 schools. School district policy, state, and/or federal laws and regulations apply for some diseases. Montana school personnel are encouraged to be familiar with local school district and public health policies and procedures.


37-2-301. Duty to report cases of communicable disease. (1) If a physician or other practitioner of the healing arts examines or treats a person who the physician or other practitioner believes has a communicable disease or a disease declared reportable by the department of public health and human services, the physician or other practitioner shall immediately report the case to the local health officer. The report must be in the form and contain the information prescribed by the department.
     (2) A person who violates the provisions of this section or rules adopted by the department under the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. On conviction, the person shall be fined not less than $10 or more than $500, imprisoned for not more than 90 days, or both. Each day of violation constitutes a separate offense. Fines, except those collected by a justice's court, must be paid to the county treasurer of the county in which the violation occurs. (Montana Annotated Code 2015)

37.104.801 Transmittable infections disease.  (1) The following infectious diseases are designated as having the potential of being transmitted to emergency services providers through an exposure described in ARM 37.104.804:

(a) human immunodeficiency virus infection (AIDS or HIV infection);
(b) hepatitis B;
(c) hepatitis C;
(d) hepatitis D;
(e) communicable pulmonary tuberculosis;
(f) meningococcal meningitis; and
(g) any disease attributed to a specific bacterial, parasitic, or other agent recognized by "The Control of Communicable Diseases Manual" as transmittable person to person by any of the exposures listed in ARM 37.104.804.

(2) For purposes of the reporting requirements of 50-16-702 (2), MCA, communicable pulmonary tuberculosis and meningococcal meningitis are considered airborne infectious diseases.

(3) For the purpose of (1)(g) above, the department hereby adopts and incorporates by reference the "The Control of Communicable Diseases Manual" published by American Public Health Association, 16th edition, 1995, which contains a list of transmission and control measures for communicable diseases. A copy of the manual may be obtained from the American Public Health Association, 1015 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.

Common Communicable Diseases Seen in Schools:

  • Hand Foot and Mouth Disease
  • Pertussis
  • Influenza
  • Norovirus
  • Pink Eye
  • Shigellosis
  • Impetigo

Prevent Communicable Diseases by:

  • Educating about hand washing and avoiding touching mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Educating about signs and symptoms of diseases and their transmission.
  • Keeping a clean environment and knowing which disinfectants are effective to use against certain bacteria/viruses.
  • Knowing your districts criteria on sending students home. 
    (Example: fever > 100.4, vomiting, diarrhea, uncontrolled cough, etc.)
  • Educate on the importance of vaccinations.  See vaccination section for more information.
Process of Containment:

Names of students diagnosed with a communicable disease will be alerted to your local health department.  Your local health department will contact you and ask for the following information:

  • Seating chart for each classroom the diagnosed child is in.
  • Close contacts (i.e. known close friends, one on one with any instructors/teachers).
  • Sports or after school programs the diagnosed child is in.
  • Does the diagnosed child have siblings in another school?
  • Reminder: Follow HIPAA guidelines at all times.

You will need to provide the health department with contact information for all classmates of the diagnosed child.  The health department will then take care of alerting other students/families to the need for testing as well as exclusion from school for the recommended period of time should they test positive. 

* Note: Not all schools, especially small rural schools may have direct assistance from a health department.  It might be helpful and effective to work closely with the clinic/doctors office that provided the diagnosis to alert others and ensure containment/limit spread of disease.

Inclusion/Exclusion from School Guidelines:

Different school districts use varying parameters to aid them in knowing when a child must be excluded from school due to disease.  Some districts have a Physician they consult with, while others may need to reach out to their Health Department for assistance.  Staying informed and asking questions is key in preventing larger disease outbreaks.


Although not a communicable disease per se, both bed bugs and head lice present unique challenges for the school nurse, teachers and families.  The following resources are helpful in explaining both of these situations as well as advising on treatment/management for those involved.  Knowing whether or not your district has a policy on these situations is helpful in knowing where to start with management of them.


This page was last updated March 27, 2019.