A spike in the number gastro outbreaks in NSW child care centres has prompted a health warning, with more than 500 children falling ill.
NSW Health is urging the community to wash their hands and stay home if they’re sick, as an influx of people seek treatment for the highly-contagious infection.
As of yesterday, 86 NSW child care centres had reported gastro outbreaks in NSW Health. Usually only 20 cases are reported in a month. The health authority says almost 550 children and 140 staff have become ill during the outbreaks.
The number of people heading to hospital emergency departments with gastro has also spiked above ‘usual levels’ with 2,557 seeking treatment just last week. Almost a quarter of those were under the age of five, and more than 600 were admitted for treatment.
What is gastroenteritis?
It’s a highly contagious infection that’s easily spread via direct contact with an infected person. if they haven’t washed their hands – especially if they haven’t properly washed their hands after going to the toilet or handling food.
“With Christmas around the corner, it is particularly important to pay attention to hand washing to prevent the spread of infection. Young children often need special assistance to make sure they are washing their hands properly,” said Manager of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases at NSW Health Keira Glasgow.
She explained that it’s unusual to see this sort of spike in NSW in summer, with the infection rate usual peaking in spring.
How to stop the spread of gastro
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds before handling and eating food.
- Always wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, changing nappies or helping someone who has diarrhoea or been vomiting.
If you have been unwell with vomiting or diarrhoea adhere to the following advice until 48 hours after symptoms have ceased, to prevent spread of infection:
- Leave Christmas food preparation to others
- Stay home from school or child care
- Stay home from work, particularly if it involves food handling, looking after children, the elderly or patients
- Avoid visiting hospitals and aged care facilities, to protect the most vulnerable.
- abdominal pain
- muscle aches
The symptoms can take up to three days to develop and usually last between one or two days, and sometimes longer.
The main treatment for viral gastro is rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Most people recover without complications but it can be serious for infants, people with suppressed immune systems and the elderly.
For more information head to NSW Health.