NSW Health warning: Gastro outbreak across childcare centres in the state

NSW Health has issued a warning to all parents who have young children at childcare centres across the state, as there has been a high number of children under the age of five who have contracted gastroenteritis.

According to the organisation, 109 centres have reported that almost 1,000 children have contracted the bug since February and more than 200 staff have also fallen ill due to these outbreaks.

559 of these youths have received medical attention at a hospital emergency department in recent weeks.


There’s been a rise in the number of gastro outbreaks across childcare centres in NSW

NSW Health Acting manager of enteric and zoonotic diseases, Keira Glasgow, says gastroenteritis is a contagious disease.

“It spreads easily between people if they haven’t carefully washed their hands after using the toilet or before handling food,” she says.

“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.

“Infants or children in childcare or school who develop vomiting or diarrhoea should stay home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped.”

gastro new

What’s more, parents who work in the food industry, looking after children or the elderly or in hospitals are being advised to not return to work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped to help stop infections spreading.

For more information, visit the NSW Health website.

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.

A common side effect of gastro is dehydration. If you suspect your child has gastro or is dehydrated, we advise you to see your GP as soon as possible.

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

  • Good hand hygiene.
  • Use a 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 it 

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 the 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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