Gastro is spreading across childcare centres in Victoria, with cases up four times from the five-year average.
Victoria Health issued a warning on Tuesday and urged parents to keep sick children home amid “the rapid rise in outbreaks”.
A Department of Health alert released yesterday said there had been 246 outbreaks of gastro reported by Victorian childcare centres so far this year.
“In each case, infection occurs when the ‘bug’ is ingested,” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the alert.
“This usually happens in childcare settings when unwashed hands are placed directly in mouths or touch food or drinks, or indirectly – by touching contaminated surfaces such as taps, toilet flush handles, children’s toys and nappies.”
The best defence against the highly contagious disease is to practice good hygeine by regularly and thoroughly washing hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling and eating food, after using the toilet, changing nappies, or assisting someone who has vomiting or diarrhoea.
The health department notes hand sanitiser, while effective against some viruses – like coronavirus – is not sufficiently effective for preventing viral gastroenteritis.
“Viral gastroenteritis is highly infectious. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches, with more severe outcomes in the elderly and very young,” the alert reads.
“Symptoms can take up to three days to develop and usually last between one or two days, sometimes longer.”
Anyone recovering should avoid visiting hospitals, childcare centres and aged care facilities to avoid spreading the infection to those most vulnerable. Adelaide childcares were also hit
with a nasty outbreak in January with 60 outbreaks at childcare centres and aged care facilities across the state over the month.