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

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