26 September 2023

Health warns parents of gastro outbreaks

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The Department of Health is warning parents, carers and childcare providers of a surging increase in viral gastroenteritis outbreaks.

Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease), Dr Deborah Friedman said 103 outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis had been reported in childcare centres between 1 January and 21 February, “compared with 69 which is the five-year average for the same period”.

Dr Friedman urged parents and carers to keep young children at home if they were sick until 48 hours had passed since their last symptom.

She said viral gastroenteritis was highly infectious, could spread rapidly and could affect people of all ages.

“Transmission in childcare settings often occurs when unwashed hands are placed directly in mouths or touch food or drinks, or indirectly – by touching contaminated surfaces such as taps, toilet flush handles, children’s toys and nappies,” Dr Friedman said.

“Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches,” she said.

“They can take up to three days to develop and usually last one to two days, sometimes longer.”

Dr Friedman said the main treatment for viral gastroenteritis was to rest and drink plenty of fluids.

She said most people recovered without complications but it may be serious for infants, people with suppressed immune systems, and the elderly.

“The best defence against the spread of viral gastroenteritis is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling and eating food, and after using the toilet, changing nappies, or assisting someone who has vomiting or diarrhoea,” the Deputy Chief Health Officer said.

“Alcohol hand rub, while effective against some viruses is not sufficiently effective for preventing viral gastroenteritis.”

Further information on viral gastroenteritis can be accessed at this PS News link.

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