Outbreak of gastro illness
‘‘The staff did a brilliant job.’’
Aged care facilities are being asked to step up infection control as gastro bugs spread through the Wellington region.
Regional Public Health (RPH) has been alerted to 17 outbreaks of Norovirus cases in October, more than twice as many as the same period in 2016.
Of those cases, 11 were found in long-term care facilities, while six were at early childhood centres.
A rest home in Porirua told The Dominion Post 18 of its residents, as well as some staff members, were struck down by a gastro bug recently.
Much of the sickness at Whitby Care Home in Whitby was confined to residents receiving care in its dementia unit.
Capital & Coast District Health Board said it had received anecdotal reports of an increase in patients presenting with gastroenteritis symptoms at Wellington Regional Hospital’s emergency department this month.
Stool samples confirmed that Norovirus was the cause for five of the 17 outbreaks, but the causes of the remaining cases are still under investigation, the RPH said. ‘‘Once the outbreak is deemed over, then our investigation ceases and a report is written with the final number of cases.’’
An outbreak is defined as ‘‘two or more cases of illness linked to a common source’’.
The spike in cases follows an outbreak at Hawke’s Bay Hospital last week which affected seven patients and about 30 staffers.
‘‘Norovirus is very infectious and primarily spreads by close contact with infectious people or by contact with contaminated surfaces,’’ Medical Officer of Health Dr Craig Thornley said.
The sickness in Whitby started when three residents became ill with vomiting and diarrhoea two weeks ago, before quickly spreading. The home’s manager, Karin Hall, said the facility was given the all-clear more than a week ago.
Hall said the illness ‘‘passed really, really quickly’’ with symptoms lasting about 24 hours.
Patients’ families were advised and a notice alerting people to the bug was placed on its door.
Hall said because many who fell ill had dementia, keeping them in their rooms was a challenge, but she was pleased with how her staff responded. ‘‘The staff did a brilliant job.’’ RPH had sent out an advisory asking aged care facilities to ‘‘step up their routine infection control precautions’’ due to the ‘‘high numbers of gastroenteritis outbreaks’’.
Norovirus can symptoms including cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps, fever, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.
On average, symptoms last for 36 hours.
‘‘The best way to avoid getting sick and to prevent passing the virus onto others is to regularly wash your hands with soap and dry them thoroughly,’’ Thornley said.
‘‘People who are unwell should stay away from early childhood centres, school and work until 48 hours ended.
‘‘It is also important not to visit rest homes, hospitals or large groups of people while you are sick.’’
Those fighting the illness should drink plenty of fluids, the Ministry of Health advised.
People with Norovirus are infectious for at least three days after the symptoms stop, and in some cases, can be infectious for up to a fortnight. after symptoms have