Gastro, flu spike alert

RESIDENTS have been urged to pay particular attention to their personal hygiene after spikes in gastroenteritis at childcare centres and a series of influenza outbreaks at aged care facilities.

NSW Health warned parents and carers with young children about the need to carefully wash their hands and keep sick children at home after a high number of children aged under five have sought treatment for the highly-contagious gastro infections.

Since February, 109 centres have reported that almost 1,000 children have been affected, along with more than 200 staff, and the number of children seeking treatment for gastroenteritis at Emergency Departments has also risen above usual levels.

NSW Health manager of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases Keira Glasgow, says gastroenteritis spreads easily between people if they haven’t carefully washed their hands after using the toilet or before handling food.

“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 after using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhoea or vomiting,” she said.

People with flu symptoms have also been reminded to stay away from aged care facilities after 2,244 influenza cases were confirmed in the four weeks to March 3, almost double the 1,144 notifications in February last year.

NSW Health’s Communicable Diseases Branch Director, Dr Vicky Sheppeard urged anyone with a fever, cough or runny nose to postpone visiting elderly relatives until they recover.

“If you have symptoms of flu it’s important to prevent the spread by coughing and sneezing into your elbow, washing your hands regularly, and staying home if you’re unwell,” she said.