‘Unseasonal’ gastro outbreaks warning
Outbreaks of gastro at childcare centres across the state have prompted a warning from NSW Health.
NSW Health is urging the community to wash their hands and to stay home if sick amid an "unseasonal rise" in viral gastroenteritis cases.
They say there has been a high number of gastroenteritis outbreaks at child care centres and an increase in people seeking treatment for the highly-contagious infection at hospital emergency departments.
By December 17, 86 child care centres had reported outbreaks of gastroenteritis to NSW Health when normally about 20 would be reported over the whole month.
Almost 550 children and 140 staff have fallen ill during the outbreaks.
The number of people seeking treatment for gastroenteritis at EDs has also risen above usual levels, with 2557 people seeking medical attention in the last week.
Almost a quarter were children under five years old, and 644 people were admitted for treatment.
NSW Health manager of enteric and zoonotic diseases Keira Glasgow said gastroenteritis was easily spread by direct contact with an infected person if they hadn't carefully washed their hands, especially after using the toilet or before handling food.
"With Christmas around the corner, it is particularly important to pay attention to hand washing to prevent the spread of infection," she said.
"Young children often need special assistance to make sure they are washing their hands properly."
She said increases of viral gastroenteritis during summer were unusual in NSW, with peaks normally occurring in spring.
"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 vomiting," Ms Glasgow said.
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.