Tummy bug on loose - beware

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 09:02 17/06/2014

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Hospice Marlborough is the latest place in Blenheim to be hit by a gastroenteritis bug, thought to be norovirus.

The bug has hit early childhood centres, schools and rest homes around Blenheim during the past couple of months, and health officials said people needed to be aware of it, increase their hygiene and stay away from vulnerable places such as hospitals and rest homes.

Public health officer Ed Kiddle said samples from the hospice were still being tested for norovirus. However, the hospice had been 72 hours with no new cases, so was considered free of it.

Norovirus was still active in Marlborough, and people should continue to take precautions.

Hospice manager Jude Dellebeke said there had not been an outbreak, but one patient had come in whose family at home had the extremely contagious bug.

The patient was contained in a room, and because of the hospice's good care, no-one else had caught it, she said.

The disease was in the community and its presence at the hospice was not an adverse reflection on the hospice's care.

Kiddle said people sick with diarrhoea or vomiting should not visit rest homes or hospitals, and should not attend childcare centres, school or work until 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting, because people remain infectious up to 48 hours after their symptoms stop.

The best way to avoid infection and to prevent passing gastroenteritis bugs on to others was to thoroughly wash and dry your hands, he said. This is particularly important after using the toilet or before handling food.

He recommended people with gastroenteritis continue drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

While gastroenteritis and norovirus were not publicly notifiable diseases, the Public Health Service had a role when a large number of people were affected or at risk of infection.

Anyone exposed to norovirus was likely to get sick quickly. Symptoms usually lasted two days and included nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, stomach cramps, headache, low-grade fever, chills, and muscle aches. There is no specific treatment or vaccination.

Public Health recommend immediately removing and washing any contaminated clothes and bedding using detergent and hot water, thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based disinfectant, and washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based gel. cathie.bell@mex.co.nz

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- The Marlborough Express

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