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Gastroenteritis outbreak in Marlborough

Gastroenteritis outbreak in Marlborough: Public health advice


Eight patients at Wairau Hospital are currently in isolation with gastroenteritis and up to 10 hospital staff members have been affected.

Hospital Operations Manager and Assistant Director of Nursing Joyce Forsyth says that robust infection prevention practice is in place at the hospital to help prevent the spread of gastroenteritis to patients, staff and visitors, but that the community has an important role to play also. Tests are also being conducted to confirm whether the cause is norovirus.

She says that gastroenteritis is highly infectious, very easily spread from person to person and that it is very important not to come into the hospital – or any public place – if you know you are sick or think that you may have gastroenteritis.

Know the symptoms
The symptoms of gastroenteritis are:

nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
stomach cramps, headache and low-grade fever
chills and muscle aches
Looking after yourself, and others, at home
Most people with gastroenteritis can treat themselves at home, and help prevent other family members catching it by following good hygiene. Staying at home also helps prevent the spread in the community.

There is no specific treatment for gastroenteritis. Dehydration is the main cause of illness; to prevent this:

drink plenty of plain water and oral rehydration drinks that can be bought from pharmacies and some supermarkets
don’t take medicines to stop vomiting or diarrhoea (unless prescribed by a doctor) as these will stop your body from getting rid of the gastroenteritis virus
To prevent spreading gastroenteritis to other people:
isolate yourself or the sick person you are looking after; put them in their own room and prevent others from entering unless necessary
if you are at a campsite or other public place, consider going home to recover. You can be infectious for up to 48 hours after symptoms cease.
stay away from other people until well and for 48 hours after the last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea
avoid preparing food for others if possible
cook all food thoroughly
wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before preparing food and before eating
wash and dry your hands well using soap and water and, ideally, follow this with hand sanitiser
avoid vomiting in sinks or shared basins/surfaces. The toilet is the best place.
clean up vomit or excretia using gloves (if available), detergent and hot water followed by bleach (household bleach diluted 1part bleach to 10 parts water), or a bleach-based disinfectant
immediately remove and wash any contaminated clothes and bedding using detergent and hot water
prepare for gastroenteritis when you pack for a holiday or travel: paper towels, soap and hand sanitiser. Consider packing a small bottle of bleach
report the illness to campground or DOC staff if relevant
When to see a doctor
People are advised to see a doctor if they, or a family member:

has blood in their vomit
gets any new or worse symptoms
has vomiting or diarrhoea for longer than three days
becomes badly dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include: little or no urine passed in the last 8 hours and the urine is dark and smelly; reduced saliva in their mouth, no tears, sunken eyes, sunken fontanelle in infants; dizziness, lethargy (no energy), floppiness, a rapid heart rate and breathing, cool hands and feet or grey cold skin; skin doesn’t relax after being pinched.

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