Victorian health officials have issued an urgent gastroenteritis outbreak alert for childcare centres with the return to school sparking case numbers four times higher than the five-year rolling average.
Parents and carers have been recommended to keep young children at home if they are sick amid a rapid rise in the number of reported cases.
Most of the current outbreaks are suspected or confirmed to be caused by the person-to-person transmission.
“Gastroenteritis is highly infectious and is caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites,” Victoria Health alert read.
Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle pain.
The symptoms can take up to three days to develop and usually last between 24 or 48 but can be longer.
“In each case, infection occurs when the ‘bug’ is ingested,” the alert read.
“This usually happens in childcare settings when unwashed hands are placed directly in mouths or touch food or drinks, or indirectly – by touching contaminated surfaces such as taps, toilet flush handles, children’s toys and nappies.
“Airborne droplets may be formed when a person vomits or has diarrhoea. These droplets can also contaminate surfaces with viral particles.”
The most at risk Victorian residents are infants and the elderly.
Health officials urge infants or children in childcare or school to be kept at home for 48 hours if they experience vomiting or diarrhoea.
“Childcare centres are encouraged to reinforce basic hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing, cleaning hard surfaces,” the alert added.
“Staff should supervise and assist young children to wash hands properly.
“Staff should also wear gloves and a mask when cleaning up bodily fluids, including vomit, when symptoms commence at the centre. Disinfect surfaces with a freshly made sodium hypochlorite (bleach) solution.”