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20+ outbreaks: Gastro bug rips through childcare centres

A NEW wave of gastroenteritis on the Gold Coast has authorities concerned with more than 20 outbreaks at facilities including childcare centres and aged care homes around the city.

The Public Health Unit today said the recent outbreaks of the bug could be the "tip of the iceberg" with 240 children and 85 staff members known to be infected.

The outbreak, which has not yet been found to have a specific concentration in any one suburb, has hit at total of 20 child care centres or schools and six aged care centres in the past fortnight.

Health Unit Medical Director Andre Wattiaux said people who have been using hand sanitisers regularly throughout the pandemic may have a false sense of security when it comes to the outbreak.

"We suspect it is a gastroenteritis virus like norovirus. They are one of the very few viruses who don't get killed by alcohol based hand gel," Dr Wattiaux said.

"While during the pandemic we have asked everyone to have thorough and regular hand washing, with this type of outbreak we really need to reiterate washing hands with soap and water.

"Some of the bottles of alcohol based hand gel do mention they kill up to 99.9 % of germs, and so that .1 % are some of these gastro viruses.

"Just a reminder we need to wash our hands both with alcohol based hand gel and soap and water is very good.

"These are short lived bouts of gastroenteritis with either diarrhoea and or vomiting, but it has also spread to the staff members and family members of the children.

"We have looked at finding links between the outbreaks and at the moment there is no locational links, it is all across the Gold Coast from north to south, from east to west."

 

Childcare centres are among the facilities affected.
Childcare centres are among the facilities affected.

 

 

Dr Wattiaux described the spike as unusually high, and at this stage the cause behind the spike is unknown.

"For us what is unusual is we don't usually see 20 facilities reporting gastroenteritis outbreaks at the same time," he said.

"But 20 at the same time in a span of two week is a lot.

"Maybe the presence of a lot of alcohol based hand gel has given a false reassurance as a thorough hand wash, we also need to use soap and water when we wash our hands."

No patients have been admitted to hospital with the virus, however individuals vulnerable to dehydration to need to be wary.

"They are short lived and quite disruptive, for facilities and families," Dr Wattiaux said.

"In some circumstances we may have to close, or recommend childcare centres close but we haven't had to do his at this time.

"Halloween might be an opportunity to amplify the outbreak, measures to mitigate the risk are quite easy.

"Washing with soap and water regularly, spending 20 seconds at a sink.

"With good measures we know we can contain these outbreaks."

The health unit is also looking to collect further samples to better understand the outbreak.

Those visiting a doctor with symptoms are asked to be tested.

 

 

 

EARLIER:

GOLD Coasters are being urged to make hygiene a priority after multiple childcare centres and schools had reported an outbreak of gastro.

Queensland Health issued the alert on Saturday morning after at least nine childcare centres and a school reported of vomiting and diarrhoea this week.

The Gold Coast Public Health Unit (GCPHU) is working with the childcare centres and school to reduce the further spread of infectious gastroenteritis in their facilities.

Queensland Health did not advise what childcare centres and school was affected by the outbreak.

 

 

Nine childcares and a school reported cases of gastro in the past week.
Nine childcares and a school reported cases of gastro in the past week.


GCPHU Physician Dr Vicki Slinko said it was important parents didn't send their children back to school or kindy too soon after they've been ill.

"Children can still be infectious for up to 48 hours after their symptoms have settled, so it's really important parents don't send kids back to school or childcare for at least that period," Dr Slinko said.

Dr Slinko warned that complacency about hand washing can breed and rapidly spread highly infectious viruses from person to person.

"Gold Coasters were excellent with their hand hygiene when we had some COVID-19 cases in the community through winter, but we can't afford to relax now," Dr Slinko said.

 

Children are said to still be infectious for up to 48 hours after symptoms have settled.
Children are said to still be infectious for up to 48 hours after symptoms have settled.

 

 

"With the AFL grand final tonight and Halloween just around the corner, this should be a reminder to not only wash your hands to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but to wash your hands to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis as well.

"By taking a moment for hand hygiene, you're taking a moment to protect the most vulnerable people in our community."

To prevent passing on germs at home or when you are out and about, Queensland Health advises to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and dry your hands properly.

Originally published as 20+ outbreaks: Gastro bug rips through childcare centres


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