A public health alert has been issued to NSW residents, urging them to be aware of signs of gastro infection.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the possible reasons behind the surge in cases, the symptoms to look out for and how to treat gastro infection at home.
In January, NSW Health sent out a public health alert warning people to be aware of the signs of gastroenteritis.
That’s because the latest information from testing and hospitals has shown a sharp rise in rotavirus infections in NSW.
Rotavirus can cause gastroenteritis, which has been at its highest level of infection for a decade. Many children have fallen ill with the infection.
It’s unusual to see high numbers of rotavirus cases in January. The peak usually happens between March and October.
Experts believe that children have lost their immunity due to Covid restrictions. And because people have been gathering over the holiday period, the infection has been passed on more easily.
Since Covid, doctors have also been testing more to know the exact viruses that cause illness. This may have led to an increase in data.
The health alert stressed that parents should know the symptoms of gastroenteritis before kids return to school in recent weeks.
What is gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is a common illness that causes vomiting and diarrhoea and is highly infectious. It’s also known as “gastro infection” or “gastro”.
It can affect people of all ages, particularly young children who may not have good hand hygiene.
Gastro infection is often caused by viruses like rotavirus but may also be triggered by bacteria, parasites or the toxins in poisonous mushrooms.
What are the signs of gastroenteritis?
Gastro infection usually lasts one to two days. The patient may have one or more of these symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle aches and pains
How to treat gastro infection
Gastro infection can usually be treated at home by:
- Keeping an eye on the patient’s temperature with a reliable thermometer
- Using cooling products to treat fever symptoms
- Drinking plenty of clear fluids like water or squash
If the patient is very young, elderly or has a suppressed immune system, they may need to be treated in a hospital. Seek medical help straight away if you are worried.
How to stop the spread of gastroenteritis
Viruses like rotavirus that cause infections can be spread by contact with the stool (poo) or vomit of an infected person.
This can happen when you are caring for someone, cleaning their environment, touching contaminated items or inhaling airborne particles when someone is vomiting.
With rotavirus infections, the gastro infection period can last from before you develop symptoms through to two weeks after you have got better.
You can stop the spread of gastroenteritis by:
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You should encourage children to do this too
- Using alcohol-based sanitiser in between handwashing
- Keeping your child at home if they show signs of gastro infection. They should only return to their normal activities 48 hours after they experience their last symptom
- Cleaning contaminated areas with hot water and detergent then disinfecting them
- Removing and washing any contaminated clothes or bed linen straight away
Children can be vaccinated against rotavirus as part of their immunisation schedule. It’s free for children under six months. There are two doses — one is given at six weeks of age, then another at four months. Sometimes a third dose is offered at six months, depending on the brand of vaccine. Ask your doctor for details.
Keeping Australia healthy together
Gastroenteritis can make you or your child feel unwell for a few days. While it usually doesn’t last long, it’s always best to avoid it if you can.
By taking a few simple hygiene measures you can cut down the risk of infection.
You can find health and well-being products to help keep your family safe from all infections in the FeverMates collection.
You’ll find products to manage fever and others that can help you stay healthy, from face masks to hand sanitiser.
Our goal is to keep Australia healthy — so let’s do it together!