600 gastro cases sweep
Source of Article: http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,27574,24598281-2682,00.html
November 04, 2008 12:30am
DOZENS of gastro outbreaks affecting more than 600 people have hit the state's communities, aged care and childcare facilities so far this year.
In October alone, there were two major outbreaks of the potentially deadly norovirus infection, one affecting almost 40 people.
Most cases investigated by SA Health were norovirus, but the latest statistics show shigella cases are about three times as high as average this year.
It comes as the Federal Health Department warns that new strains have been hitting Australian shores in the past couple of years.
In the latest Medical Journal of Australia Martyn Kirk, from the department, says a single case of gastroenteritis in an aged-care facility could signal the beginning of an outbreak.
"Gastroenteritis will occur in settings where people gather, even when standards of care and food hygiene are very high,' he said.
"Early recognition of an outbreak and identification of the responsible organism enable interventions that can reduce the impact of disease. Norovirus is highly infectious and difficult to control, even when intensive infection control measures are implemented."
The article warned that hospitalisation and death from gastroenteritis were more common among elderly people. SA Health Communicable Disease Control Branch director Dr Ann Koehler said norovirus was easily transmitted through hands, environment or food.
SA Health statistics show while the majority of outbreaks are in aged-care facilities, hotels, conference and camping facilities are also at risk, as are child care centres. Local Kids Walkerville is a childcare centre that focuses on hygiene to prevent any outbreaks.
Group leader Anne Thomas said teaching children to wash their hands regularly was an important step. "We have signs up to say it is important to be germ free," she said.
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