Chief health officer warns Victorian childcare centres


Health officials are warning parents to be on high alert as the number of viral gastroenteritis cases in Victorian childcare centres climbs more than four times higher than the five-year average.

A Department of Health alert released on Wednesday said there had been 246 outbreaks of gastro notified from Victorian childcare centres so far this year.

Victoria communicable disease executive director Dr Bruce Bolam said the best way to prevent the gastro spreading was to keep children home until after they recovered.

“Gastroenteritis can spread quickly through settings such as childcare centres, where children play and interact closely with each other and can readily spread their bugs,” he said.

“It is important for childcare centres to have good hygiene practices in place and to respond quickly with thorough cleaning if any children become ill.

“Handwashing with soap and water is still the best personal hygiene method to minimise the chance of spreading the virus.

Norovirus is 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 include fever, abdominal pain, headaches and muscle aches.

While all ages can be affected, more than 60 per cent of outbreaks are 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.

The alert said washing hands with soap and water was the “best way to prevent infection”.

“While alcohol hand sanitisers were effective against some viruses such as coronavirus, it “was not effective” against gastroenteritis.

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