Warning to watch out for gastro

NSW Health has issued a warning of a Gastroenteritis (gastro) epidemic which has taken hold of the state and resulted in nearly twice the number of cases being confirmed in August of this year, compared to the same period last year.

The health department reported more than 3500 people attended NSW emergency departments in the last few weeks, including a number of cases involving primary school aged children.

Schools in the area reported no significant increase in the number of absent students or staff due to gastro.

However the flu has been responsible for a considerable number of students and teachers staying home over the last month.

Assistant Director Public Health North Coast Greg Bell said the Northern Rivers area had not experienced a huge outbreak, however, three or four aged care facilities had reported confirmed cases of gastro.

The situation was completely under control but people shouldn't be complacent.

Mr Bell said the virus detected at the aged care facilities was mostly norovirus, causing a disease of the stomach and intestines.

The virus was particularly virulent and put everyone at risk.

Gastro can easily spread from person to person and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscular aches and take between one and two days to develop.

The symptoms last at least one or two days, and for people who contracted gastro it is vital to stay home and avoid visiting hospitals and aged care facilities to prevent spreading the virus to the more vulnerable.

NSW Health Director of Health Protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty said the best way to reduce the chances of infection was to practice proper hygiene.

He suggested to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds before handling and eating food.

"Always wash your hands after using the toilet.

"Dehydration often follows bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea so people with the virus should rest well and increase the amounts of fluids they drink.

"If people are concerned they should see their local GP," Dr McAnulty said.

Topics:  gastroenteritis health hygiene illness nsw health

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