Gastro outbreak in NSW

At Nepean Aquatic Centre and Eva Bory’s Swim School, we follow NSW Health Department’s strict guidelines on pool water quality which includes having our water tested by a 3rd party laboratory on a regular basis. We use a combination of chlorine and UV disinfection and have a computer check our pool chemistry levels every 30 seconds. Although our procedures ensure that you are swimming in the best quality pool water we do ask that if you or your children have suffered any gastro episodes that you don’t swim for 7 days following your last episode, to keep everyone well and happy!

A slew of gastroenteritis outbreaks across NSW including child care centres and aged care facilities have landed almost 2000 people in emergency departments in the past week, health authorities say.

NSW Health is urging members of the public to wash their hands and stay at home if they have gastro symptoms, after a spike in infections brought 1900 people to the state’s EDs.

The rise in cases amounts to a 34 per cent jump compared to the same week last year.

The gastro increase seen at hospitals coincides with a rise in viral gastro caused by norovirus and rotavirus in the community, child care centres and aged care facilities, NSW Health said.

It also comes during the worst influenza season in decades, with more than 8000 people with confirmed flu presenting at EDs in the past week alone.

A total of 32 gastroenteritis outbreaks have been reported in child care centres or aged care facilities in the past week, affecting at least 286 people.

All of these outbreaks appear to be caused by viral gastroenteritis, four of which were specifically caused by norovirus, NSW Health said.

Child care centres, nursing homes and hospitals were hardest hit by the gastro outbreak.

Emergency departments in Northern Sydney, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Sydney, South Eastern Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health Districts all saw more than the usual number of gastro attendances for this time of year, said Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director of the Communicable Diseases Branch, NSW Health.

Across greater Sydney there were six aged care facilities and 12 child care centres that reported gastroenteritis outbreaks in the past week, affecting 61 and 80 people, respectively.
During July, 26 aged care facilities and 38 child care centres reported gastroenteritis outbreaks, affecting 504 and 312 people respectively, Dr Sheppeard said.

“Our emergency departments are very busy at this time of the year but are well equipped to manage the demand.

“Having said that, it is important that the community considers the best place to seek treatment such as their GP or pharmacist. Our EDs are geared to care for all conditions but more urgent cases will necessarily be seen ahead of non-urgent cases,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Viral gastroenteritis is highly infectious and often spread via direct contact with an infected person.

“Norovirus and rotavirus spread easily from person to person, particularly if hands are not carefully washed after using the toilet or before handling food,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches and can take between one and three days to develop and usually last between one and two days, sometimes longer.

“Dehydration often follows bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea, particularly in young children, so people with the virus should rest well and increase the amount of fluids they drink. If people are concerned they should see their local GP,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Dr Sheppeard said the best defence was to wash hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds before handling and eating food, and always wash hands after using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhoea or vomiting.

“It is vital that if you or your family contract gastroenteritis that you stay home from work and keep sick children home from school or childcare for at least 24 hours after the last symptom of gastroenteritis.”

People who have gastro symptoms should avoid hospitals and aged care facilities to avoid spreading the infection, Dr Sheppeard said.

“If your work involves handling food, or looking after children, the elderly or patients, do not return to work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.

Children are eligible for the rotavirus vaccine at six weeks and four months of age. The vaccine is roughly 70 per cent effective in preventing the infection, and over 85 per cent effective in preventing severe gastroenteritis in infants.

It is expected to give protection for up to five years.