ACT gastro outbreaks in ECEC almost triple over past year, prompting health warning 

ACT gastro outbreaks in ECEC almost triple over past year, prompting health warning 

by Freya Lucas

May 27, 2021

Gastroenteritis (gastro) outbreaks in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services have almost tripled in the last year, prompting ACT Health to caution Canberra residents against becoming complacent about handwashing and good hygiene. 


ACT Health was made aware of 57 gastro outbreaks in the first four months of this year, a ‘considerable jump’ compared to the average of 21 outbreaks during the same period over the past five years, local news source RiotACT reported


During 2020, when concerns about COVID were at their peak, social distancing and increased attention to hygiene resulted in a considerable drop in recorded cases of common illnesses such as the flu and gastro. 


ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the gastro outbreaks highlighted how important it was to continue good hygiene practices.


“Childcare centres tend to be incubators of these kind of things,” she said, “and when something does happen, it tends to be a bit of a spike.”


Washing hands with soap and water and excluding children from care for 48 hours after gastro symptoms have ceased are the main safeguards against the spread of the virus, and should prevent further outbreaks. 


Once infected, the main treatment for children is to keep up their fluids to replace what is lost through vomiting and diarrhoea. ACT Health recommends oral rehydration fluids like Gastrolyte, HYDRAlyte, Pedialyte and Repalyte to replace fluids and body salts.


As well as an increase in gastro cases, ACT Health also noted a ‘marked increase’ in Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) at the end of last year with more than 400 confirmed cases, mostly in children under five – more than 10 times the average for the warmer months. 


Information about gastroenteritis can be found on the ACT Health website.


Information about Respiratory Syncytial Virus can be found on the healthdirect website.


For the original coverage of this story, as produced by RiotACT, please see here