GASTRO OUTBREAK: Melbourne residents have been warned to be on high alert

OUTBREAK: The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a warning for Melbourne residents to be on high alert and on the look-out for gastro symptoms.

There have been 20 reported cases in the past fortnight, affecting child care and aged care facilities across the region.

ill child

‘We’re seeing more than we normally do’

This number of patients being struck down by gastro is unusually high for this time of year, says Bram Alexander, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re seeing more than we normally do. It’s reasonable to say in the last fortnight we’ve had 20 facilities [affected],” he says.

Those visiting these facilities have been advised to use hand sanitisers when available.

Toddler/baby boy not feeling well. Looking sick and sad.

“Visitors to aged care facilities and hospitals should take special care with washing their hands following cases of gastroenteritis in these settings at this time of year,” Bram adds.

“This is a timely reminder to all visitors that washing their hands before visiting loved ones in aged care or hospital is extremely important.

“Hand hygiene gel is widely available for visitors and should be used. Just as importantly, they should avoid visiting if they are unwell.”

Facilities are being urged to follow the department guidelines and infection control process to prevent the spread of the disease.

What is gastro?

Gastroenteritis or ‘gastro’ is a common illness affecting the gastrointestinal system, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever.

Gastroenteritis usually only lasts 24-72 hours depending on the cause, but can take a big toll on your body, especially if you get dehydrated.

There is no vaccine to prevent gastro, so the best ways to avoid catching it is: 

  • Good hand hygiene.
  • Use paper towel instead of cloth towels.
  • Do not handle raw and cooked foods with the same implements (tongs, knives, cutting boards), unless they have been thoroughly washed between uses. Keep all kitchen surfaces and equipment clean.
  • Keep cold food cold (below 5 °C) and hot food hot (above 60 °C) to discourage the growth of bacteria.
  • Make sure foods are thoroughly cooked.
  • Clean the toilet and bathroom regularly, especially the toilet seat, door handles and taps.
  • When travelling overseas to countries where sanitation is suspect, only drink bottled water. Avoid food buffets, uncooked foods or peeled fruits and vegetables, and ice in drinks.

Tips to get through the poo-ey times 

The most important treatment of gastro is hydration. Frequent small sips of water or rehydration fluids can help keep your fluid levels up and avoid the dreaded dehydration. Even crunching on ice chips can ensure you are getting some fluid in.

If you can’t tolerate any water, a trip to hospital for IV fluids may be in order.

It’s also important to remember:

  • Rest as much as possible. Make a floor bed with everything you need, bucket, water, towels. This will give you time to recuperate.  
  • Sharing isn’t caring. Stop the spread! Wash hands carefully with soap and water after going to the toilet, changing nappies and before touching any food. Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaner. Wash all contaminated laundry thoroughly. Stay away from work, school, childcare etc. until 24 hours after symptoms resolve. 
  • Try the BRAT diet once you have stopped vomiting and you’re able to keep down fluids. The BRAT diet is super bland and consists of Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce, and Toast. The BRAT diet won’t irritate your stomach, your stools will be firmer due to the binding nature of the foods and it can help replace nutrients your body needs such as potassium.

If you have any other questions and or concerns regarding breastfeeding and gastro – be sure to chat with your healthcare practitioner.

This above information was provided by Healthy Mummy midwife Bel Moore.

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