Don’t want to explain your vomiting and diarrhoea to your school when you call in sick? Nobody does. People make jokes when you have gastro – it’s the perfect ‘sickie’ excuse.
But for those suffering, it’s far from funny – especially when you throw in fever, headache, abdominal cramps and muscle aches. And the resulting dehydration can be serious – or even fatal – for young children and the elderly.
Gastroenteritis is always present in communities, and with careful hygiene, you can avoid an outbreak in your school community and workplace.
The outbreaks are mostly caused by infection with viruses, usually norovirus or rotavirus.
If a child vomits or has a bit of diarrhoea and they have not completely washed their hands, the virus can be transmitted to someone else’s mouth. This could be through person to person contact, such as shaking hands or by touching contaminated objects, like a door handle.
But extra vigilance is required to stop noroviruses because they can spread through the air in droplets, causing much wider contamination of surfaces. The airborne virus may also reach the gut by being inhaled into the back of the throat.
It’s not a classic aerosol spread like you see with respiratory viruses. You probably need to be in quite close proximity like a parent or teacher cleaning up a child’s diarrhoea or vomit. Wearing a mask may be helpful in these circumstances.
Stop the spread
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and running water for before handling and eating food, and always wash your hands after using the toilet.” (Tip: Suggest children sing the entire “Happy Birthday” song before they stop handwashing.)
It is vital that if you or your family contract gastroenteritis, you stay home from work or keep a child home from school if they are sick.
You should also avoid visiting settings where people are especially vulnerable such as hospitals or aged care facilities.
The symptoms can take between one and three days to develop and usually last another one or two days, sometimes longer.
In most cases, spread occurs from a person who has symptoms. But some people can pass on the infection without symptoms, particularly in the first 48 hours after recovery, or in the window between them becoming infected and developing symptoms.
If you are a parent with a young child in a childcare centre where other children have had gastro, be proactive. Be extra careful with your own child that they’re not sharing spoons and food with others because they may well be harbouring the virus.
Outbreaks occur every two to three years when viruses mutate in ways that make them better able to infect people.
The good news is if you’ve been laid low this year, you might have a breather the next few years.
If your school or workplace has a gastro outbreak call iClean on 1300 763 356 to disinfect, clean and freshen up your office or classroom. iClean are experienced in ensuring your learning and working environment is clinically clean which ensures staff and children are safe to return.