GASTRO OUTBREAK: Childcare centres, nursing homes hit worst

NSW Health is urging the community to wash their hands and stay at home if affected by gastroenteritis, following an increase in viral gastroenteritis notifications and emergency department presentations in hospitals across the state.

More than 1900 people attended emergency departments with gastroenteritis in the past week, a 34% increase on the usual number for this time of year.

The increase in emergency department presentations has coincided with a rise in viral gastroenteritis caused by norovirus and rotavirus in child care centres and aged care facilities.

In the past week, 32 gastroenteritis outbreaks in centres have been reported, affecting at least 286 people.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches.

Director of the Communicable Diseases Branch Dr Vicky Sheppeard said viral gastroenteritis is highly infectious and spread via direct contact with an infected person.

"Norovirus and rotavirus spreads easily from person to person, particularly if hands are not carefully washed after using the toilet or before handling food," Dr Sheppeard said.

"The best defence is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds."

All children should receive rotavirus vaccine at six weeks and four months of age.

This vaccine is around 70% effective in preventing rotavirus infection, and over 85% effective in preventing severe gastroenteritis in infants, giving protection for up to five years.

If people are concerned they should see their local GP.

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