Gastro tears through daycare centres leaving hundreds of children ill and some even hospitalised
- Victoria has experienced alarming rise of gastro outbreaks in child care centres
- 389 outbreaks in childcare setting so far in 2021, including 140 in the last month
- Handwashing with soap and water best way to kill virus rather than sanitisers
- Childcare staff, youngsters and their families can help stop virus from spreading
Parents are on high alert after hundreds of youngsters were struck down with gastroenteritis in childcare centres across Victoria.
The highly infectious stomach virus is on the rise across the state with outbreaks of at least two cases in almost 400 childcare settings since the start of 2021, according to the latest department of health figures.
Cases have soared by 140 in the last month and remains at a rate four times higher than average for this time of year.
The city of Geelong south-west of Melbourne is the worst affected region with 29 outbreaks, followed by the Melbourne regions of Casey (17) and Wyndham (16) while another 40 have been recorded in the city’s eastern outskirts.
The recent alarming spike has sparked concern from the state’s health officials.
Almost 400 childcare centres across Victoria have recorded gastro outbreaks so far this year (stock image)
Victoria’s Communicable Disease executive directive Dr Bruce Bolam says childcare workers, youngsters and their families can all contribute to limiting the spread of the virus.
‘Gastroenteritis can spread quickly through settings such as early childhood education and care services, where children play and interact closely with each other and can readily spread their bugs,’ Dr Bolam said.
‘It is important that early childhood services have good hygiene practices in place and to respond quickly with thorough cleaning if any children become ill.’
Handwashing with soap and water is the best personal hygiene method to minimise the spread of the virus rather than alcohol-based sanitisers, which are less effective in killing the stomach bug.
‘A good old-fashioned scrub with soap and warm water is the best way to remove the gastro virus from our hands and prevent passing it on to infect others,’ Dr Bolam said.
The port city of Geelong (pictured) south-west of Melbourne is the worst-hit region with 29 outbreaks in child care centres
GP Dr Abhi Verma has seen a high number of cases in recent weeks at his practice in Melbourne’s outer south-eastern suburbs.
He fears people have become complacent with hygiene practices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Perhaps now with a bit of relaxation of social distancing and … people not being as vigilant with hand hygiene compared to this time last year, things might have shifted a little bit,’ he told the Age.
Gastro symptoms include nausea/vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches, which can take up to three days to develop and usually last one to two days, sometimes longer.
Parents are advised to keep their sick youngsters at home for at least two days after gastro symptoms ease (stock image)
Parents are urged to keep their children at home for 48 hours after symptoms cease as they may still be infectious.
The same advice applies to childcare workers struck down by the virus.
Anyone recovering from gastroenteritis should avoid visiting hospitals, early childhood services and aged care facilities to avoid spreading the infection to the most vulnerable.
Any person living in a household with someone with gastro should also avoid visiting these high-risk facilities until at least 48 hours after the last person in the household has recovered.
Symptoms include nausea/vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches. Pictured is a stock image of a young child suffering from gastro