600 gastro cases sweep South Australia

Article from: The Advertiser


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.


  • The main types of gastro found in community, aged care and child care facilities are norovirus, salmonella and shigella. They all have similar symptoms, including fever, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, headache, nausea and vomiting.
  • Anyone with the following symptoms should seek medical advice: Signs of dehydration, severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea.
  • Any child less than 12 months of age with symptoms should be taken to a doctor.
  • Anyone who is sick should be given plenty of fluids. Breastfed babies should still be fed with extra fluids given between feeds. Children on formula or solid diets should not have food withheld for more than 24 hours. Antibiotics are sometimes recommended for salmonella and Shigella.


  • Sick adults should not go to work and sick children should not go to childcare, preschool or school until better.
  • Follow good hand washing procedures and hygiene protocols.
  • Infected people - including those without symptoms - involved in food preparation, or in caring for patients in hospital, the elderly, or children must take special care with hand washing.
  • Norovirus is very contagious. Any clothing or bedding that may be contaminated must be washed, and all surfaces disinfected with household bleach. Health care workers should be off work for at least 48 hours after the last symptoms cease.



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