Childcare gastro outbreaks almost triple

Dominic Giannini 24 May 2021 16
Child washing hands

Children are being encouraged to continue good hygiene practices as gastro outbreaks in childcare centres spike. Photo: Supplied.

Gastroenteritis outbreaks in childcare centres have almost tripled in the last year, prompting ACT Health to warn Canberrans about health complacency.

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.

Children in childcare usually get infected when unwashed hands are placed directly in their mouths or touch food or drinks, ACT Health says.

Canberrans are being urged to keep living with the good hygiene practices we adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a considerable drop in other viruses and infections last year. This included a drop in recorded cases of the flu in the ACT from 4000 in 2019 to only 200 last year.

Australian Medical Association ACT president Dr Antonio Di Dio said this was mainly due to social distancing measures and a greater emphasis on hygienic practices during the pandemic.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has encouraged families to continue with hygienic practices. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

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

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

“But it is a reminder for people that the same precautions we used against COVID-19, particularly washing your hands properly with soap and water, are the best defence against many of these [outbreaks].”

Children are not supposed to go back to childcare until they have been free of gastro symptoms for 48-hours.

The main treatment for children who have gastro is to keep drinking fluids to replace what is lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. According to ACT Health, oral rehydration fluids like Gastrolyte, HYDRAlyte, Pedialyte and Repalyte can be used to replace fluids and body salts.


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There was also 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.

It was more than 10 times the average for that time of year.

RSV causes respiratory infections and can cause ear infections as well. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and wheezing.

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

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


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16 Responses to Childcare gastro outbreaks almost triple
54-11 54-11 10:39 am 24 May 21

There’s one childcare centre in Canberra, not too far from a major health facility, that allows rescue animals to wander around the centre, including in the kitchen. These are childcare operations, not animal care.

whatwik whatwik 9:04 am 24 May 21

Remembering our experience taking turns to sleep with our rag doll-like toddler in isolation at TCH (Woden as it was then), one bout is more than enough, so commiserations and hope for all those young parents trying to cope with multiple outbreaks.

Lizzie Danger Lizzie Danger 6:04 am 24 May 21

Renee Hamilton please no not again!

Emma Wright Emma Wright 9:46 pm 23 May 21

So many “disease experts” commenting.

Jordan Thurtell Jordan Thurtell 9:29 pm 23 May 21

Georgia Thurtell this is what has got us

Leah Uttley Leah Uttley 8:42 pm 23 May 21

I think its also because people are relying on hand sanitiser when its actually soap and water that kills the gastro virus. Glen 20 doesn't kill the gastro virus either.

Jessica Kirsopp Jessica Kirsopp 6:04 pm 23 May 21

We just need to remember that hand sanitiser DOES NOT kill gastro germs, soap and water works best

    Karo Ki Karo Ki 8:53 pm 23 May 21

    Jessica Kirsopp doesn't it?!? 😷😱 we were in hospital a couple weeks ago with my daughter, who had active gastro/vomiting at the time and all the staff woukd just sanitise their hands after touching her...🤷🏼‍♀️

    Jessica Kirsopp Jessica Kirsopp 9:12 pm 23 May 21

    Karo Ki Nope, alcohol based hand sanitizer doesn't kill the noro virus, I can almost guarantee they probably went and washed their hands as well has using hand sanitizer

Rhani Pollock Rhani Pollock 4:30 pm 23 May 21

Athena Pollock this is what I was telling you about.

Helen Ritchie Helen Ritchie 4:01 pm 23 May 21

I thinks it's kind of the opposite. Our kids, quite rightly, are sanitising their hands multiple times a day and their immune systems are not getting any form of germs so when they do it goes into overdrive

    Kimberley Robson Kimberley Robson 7:57 pm 23 May 21

    Helen Ritchie I actually believe this so much! My daughter is 4 this year daycare for three years and never got sick; great immune system. Since COVID she is sick like every 2nd week I swear, colds after colds and gastro. She’s had gastro like 3/4 times this year never had before. It’s killing me

Veronica Giddings Veronica Giddings 3:17 pm 23 May 21

Janelle Wilson this explains a lot

    Janelle Wilson Janelle Wilson 5:59 pm 23 May 21

    Veronica Giddings seems like it happens every year

    Veronica Giddings Veronica Giddings 6:00 pm 23 May 21

    Janelle Wilson it’s a permanent outbreak

Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 2:58 pm 23 May 21

3 times so far this year! #funtimes I've used 18 sick days this year, and my husband has used 12 and he's only part time 🤦‍♀️

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