24 November 2020

NSW Health is urging parents and carers to keep young children at home if they are sick amid a rise in viral gastroenteritis cases in childcare centres.

NSW Health’s Executive Director of Health Protection, Dr Richard Broome, said gastroenteritis is highly infectious and may spread rapidly in childcare centres.

“Nearly 60 childcare centres reported outbreaks of gastroenteritis in October, which is significantly higher than usual. More than 480 children and 120 staff have been affected. Levels have remained high throughout November,” Dr Broome said.

“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 after using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhoea or vomiting.

“Infants or children in childcare or school who develop vomiting or diarrhoea should stay at home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped, as should staff members and anyone whose work involves handling food or looking after children, the elderly or patients.”

Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis 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, sometimes longer.

The main treatment for viral gastroenteritis is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Most people recover without complications, but gastroenteritis can be serious for infants, people with suppressed immune systems and the elderly.

Anyone recovering from gastroenteritis should avoid visiting hospitals and aged care facilities to avoid spreading the infection to those most vulnerable. Any person living in a household affected by gastroenteritis should refrain from visiting these high-risk areas until at least 48 hours after the last person in the household has recovered.

NSW Health is reminding childcare centres to reinforce basic hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing (paying particular attention to hand washing after attending to nappy changes), cleaning all hard surfaces and providing education to help prevent the spread of infections. Staff should also wear gloves and a mask when cleaning up bodily fluids, including vomit, when symptoms commence at the centre. Disinfect surfaces with a freshly made sodium hypochlorite solution.

For more information visit gastroenteritis.