The warning has
been prompted by a high number of gastroenteritis outbreaks at child care
centres across the state and an increase in people seeking treatment for the
highly-contagious infection at hospital emergency departments (EDs).
By 17 December,
86 child care centres had reported outbreaks of gastroenteritis to NSW Health
when normally around 20 would be reported over the whole month. Almost 550
children and 140 staff have fallen ill during these outbreaks.
The number of
people seeking treatment for gastroenteritis at EDs has also risen above usual
levels, with 2,557 people seeking medical attention in the last week. Almost a
quarter were children under five years old, and 644 people were admitted for
Glasgow, Manager of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases at NSW Health, said
gastroenteritis is easily spread by direct contact with an infected person if
they haven’t carefully washed their hands, especially after using the toilet or
before handling food.
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,” Ms Glasgow
She said increases of viral
gastroenteritis during summer are unusual in NSW, with peaks normally occurring
“The best defence is to wash
your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds
before handling and eating food, and always wash your hands thoroughly after
using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhoea or
Anyone who has
been unwell with vomiting or diarrhoea should adhere to the following advice
until 48 hours after symptoms have ceased, to prevent spread of infection:
Christmas food preparation to others
home from school or child care
home from work, particularly if it involves food handling, looking after
children, the elderly or patients
visiting hospitals and aged care facilities, to protect the most vulnerable.
Viral gastroenteritis symptoms include
nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches.
They can take up to three days to develop and usually last between one or two
days, and sometimes longer.
The main treatment for viral
gastroenteritis 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.