Health alert: Warning on viral gastroenteritis

3 August 2017

NSW Health is urging the community to wash their hands and stay at home if affected by gastroenteritis, following an increase in viral gastroenteritis notifications and emergency department presentations in hospitals across the state. 

More than 1,900 people attended NSW emergency departments with gastroenteritis in the past week, a 34 per cent increase on the usual number for this time of year. More than 400 of these people were admitted to hospital, which is also above the usual range for this time of year. 

The increase in emergency department presentations has coincided with a rise in viral gastroenteritis caused by norovirus and rotavirus in the community, child care centres and aged care facilities. In the past week, 32 gastroenteritis outbreaks in child care centres or aged care facilities have been reported, affecting at least 286 people. All of these outbreaks appear to be caused by viral gastroenteritis, four of which were specifically caused by norovirus.

All children should receive rotavirus vaccine at six weeks and four months of age. This vaccine is around 70 per cent effective in preventing rotavirus infection, and over 85 per cent effective in preventing severe gastroenteritis in infants. It is expected to give protection for up to five years.