Viral gastroenteritis cases in Victorian childcare centres are surging, with the number of outbreaks climbing to more than four times higher than the average for this time of year.
There have been 389 outbreaks in childcare centres up until April this year.
Victoria executive director for communicable disease Dr Bruce Bolam urged childcare workers, children and their families to be on high alert.
“Gastroenteritis can spread quickly through settings such as early childhood education and care services, where children play and interact closely with each other and can readily spread their bugs,” he said.
“It is important that early childhood services have good hygiene practices in place and to respond quickly with thorough cleaning if any children become ill.
“Hand washing with soap and water is still the best personal hygiene method to minimise the chance of spreading the virus.”
Figures released by the Department of Health on Monday showed the greater Geelong region had the highest number of outbreaks across the state this year with 29.
The city of Casey, in Melbourne’s southeast, had the second highest with 17, while the city of Wyndham in the city’s western suburbs recorded 16 outbreaks.
Dr Bolam said while alcohol-based sanitiser was important to tackle coronavirus, it was much less effective against bugs such as norovirus, which were the “predominant cause” of the current childcare outbreaks.
Norovirus was the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis, with symptoms including a quick onset of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea that lasts 2-3 days.
Other symptoms included fever, abdominal pain, headaches and muscle aches.
While all ages could be affected, more than 60 per cent of outbreaks were in childcare or aged care centres.
Children with symptoms should stay home while sick and for 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped. If symptoms persist, parents should visit a general practitioner.
Anyone recovering from gastroenteritis should avoid visiting hospitals, early childhood services and aged care facilities, the Department of Health warned.
Any person living in a household with someone who had gastroenteritis should refrain from visiting these high-risk facilities until at least 48 hours after the last person in the household recovered.
TOP 10 OUTBREAK HOTPOTS IN VICTORIA:
- Greater Geelong: 29 cases
- City of Casey: 17
- City of Wyndham: 16
- Yarra Ranges: 15
- Darebin: 14
- Ballarat: 12
- Knox: 12
- Maroondah: 12
- Hume: 11
- Moonee Valley: 11