The number of rotavirus infections in South Australia are double what they were at the same time last year, prompting a warning about a gastro outbreak sweeping across venues such as childcare centres.
Rotavirus is one form of gastroenteritis that can cause severe diarrhoea and dehydration in children.
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In South Australia, there have been at least 975 cases of rotavirus so far this year, while there were 475 cases at the same time last year.
The cases are mostly being reported in children under four, followed by children aged five to nine years old, according to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
While rotavirus is considered a reportable disease, there are other forms of gastro that don’t have to be reported to health authorities.
Public health chief Nicola Spurrier says parents should immunise their children against rotavirus. Credit: AAP
SA Health Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier said this means the number of overall gastro infections would be higher than those reported.
“Those (reported) numbers only represent if there’s been a child and there’s been a poo specimen sent off to the lab, and we’ve had it tested,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“But there are lots of other people that might have had gastro and the sample doesn’t go in, so it’s not notified.”
A number of Adelaide childcare centres said they had seen a higher than usual number of gastro cases, prompting them to advise parents to keep infected children home.
NBL team the Adelaide 36ers have also been impacted with star player Jacob Wiley only able to play half a game against Perth on Saturday.
Infants under six months old are recommended to receive a rotavirus oral vaccination, given in two doses at two and four months old.
Infants are eligible for a free rotavirus oral vaccine. File image. Credit: Peter Cade/Getty Images
The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance reports that the vaccine is between 73 and 88 per cent effective in preventing infection.
Spurrier said she was concerned the rotavirus vaccination rate may have dropped.
“I don’t know if that’s the cause of why we’re seeing more rotavirus cases this year, but it’s certainly something parents can do to ensure their child is fully protected,” she said.
Viral gastroenteritis is spread when a person comes into contact with faeces or vomit carrying the virus.
Symptoms include a mild fever, nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
Patients are recommended to stay home for at least 24 hours after their last episode of diarrhoea.
SA Health warns that children can spread rotavirus two days before and up to eight days after developing diarrhoea.
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