Families with children who attend childcare are urged to keep their children at home if they are unwell and practice good hand-hygiene after an increase in reports of viral gastroenteritis in childcare settings across the state.
The Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) Acting Director, Dr Doug Shaw, said there were at least 17 outbreaks of gastroenteritis in childcare settings in December 2020, compared to just four the previous month.
“A similar increase has been seen in other States and Territories and as gastroenteritis is not a notifiable disease in South Australia, it is likely that the number of outbreaks in the community is much higher,” Dr Shaw said.
“While most of these outbreaks have not been clinically tested, the reports of short-lived vomiting and diarrhoea among children in the cases we’ve been made aware of are consistent with norovirus infection, one of the more common causes of gastroenteritis, commonly known as gastro. “This increase of gastro in the community, particularly in childcare centres, is an important reminder to practice good hand-hygiene and stay home if you are unwell. “Children especially should not return to childcare until they are feeling better and they have not had any diarrhoea or vomiting for at least 48 hours.”
Symptoms of viral gastro can take two to three days to develop and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle ache. Symptoms usually last between one to two days.
Dr Shaw said while gastroenteritis is a common illness, it can be quite serious for young children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions.
“It spreads easily from person-to-person via hands, objects, surfaces or food that has been contaminated by faeces or vomit,” Dr Shaw said.
“Prevention is always the best defence, which is why we are encouraging everyone to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly with soap and running water after going to the toilet, before eating or preparing food, changing nappies or having contact with someone who is unwell.
“Wipe down frequently used surfaces regularly and, if you have had gastro, do not prepare food for anyone else for at least 24 hours after symptoms have stopped.”
More information on viral gastroenteritis can be found at http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au.