Gastro is on the rise in Victorian childcare

REPORTS surfaced recently of viral gastroenteritis outbreaks in childcare facilities across Victoria, including the Latrobe Valley.

On Wednesday, December 22, the Department of Health announced that viral gastroenteritis (gastro) cases were on the rise in early childhood education and care services.

There has been a total of 56 outbreaks in childcare centres across the state since the beginning of November, a significant increase from the 19 cases that were seen during the same period last year.

There was three known outbreaks in the Latrobe Valley at the time The Express went to press, according to Latrobe City Council.

“Council is aware of three outbreaks in Latrobe City most recently and is working with the Department of Health to monitor the situation,” a council spokesperson said.

“We encourage the community to follow the directions of the Chief Health Officer and keep young children home until they are symptom-free for 48 hours.”

There was another gastro outbreak earlier in 2021, after COVID restrictions eased in which the Health Department recorded 389 outbreaks up to the end of April – which was four times the average for that time of year.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that gastro is a fast spreading virus.

“Gastroenteritis can spread quickly through settings such as early child- hood education and care services, where children play and interact closely with each other and can readily spread their bugs,” Professor Sutton said.

“Camps and other activities where children congregate also provide conditions where bugs can be passed on.”

Professor Sutton said that hand washing is the best defence against gastro.

However, unlike coronavirus, sanitiser is not the best defence.

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

“A good old-fashioned scrub with soap and warm water is the best way to remove the gastro virus from our hands and prevent passing it on to infect others.”