News and Notices

Gastroenteritis outbreak easing in Marlborough

Update 15 January: While there are still five patients at Wairau Hospital in isolation with community acquired gastroenteritis, the outbreak appears to be tailing off.

Last week eight patients with gastroenteritis symptoms were in isolation at Wairau Hospital, and some staff were also affected.  Norovirus has since been confirmed as the source of the gastroenteritis in some of the patients.

Dr Stephen Bridgman, Medical Officer of Health with the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service says gastroenteritis is common in the community.   
“Norovirus is a particularly challenging gastroenteritis to control, as it is transmissible by aerosol as well as the faecal-oral route,” he says. “In the community, a high proportion of people infected with norovirus will have mild or no symptoms at all.”

He says the infection is easily transmitted, especially to vulnerable hospital patients because they are less fit on average than the general community.

“We would like to thank the public for their ongoing help in reducing the risk of transmission in our hospitals. However, I would like to remind people who have any symptoms that might be caused by an infectious gastroenteritis, to avoid attending a healthcare institution or residential home.

“As infection can be transmitted by people who have no symptoms, all visitors should continue please to pay special attention to good hygiene when they visit someone’s home or a hospital.”

Know the symptoms

The symptoms of gastroenteritis are:

  •  nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  •  stomach cramps, headache and low-grade fever
  •  chills and muscle aches

Looking after yourself, and others, at home

Most people with gastroenteritis can treat themselves at home, and help prevent other family members catching it by following good hygiene. Staying at home also helps prevent the spread in the community.

There is no specific treatment for gastroenteritis. Dehydration is the main cause of illness; to prevent this:

  • drink plenty of plain water and oral rehydration drinks that can be bought from pharmacies and some supermarkets
  • don’t take medicines to stop vomiting or diarrhoea (unless prescribed by a doctor) as these will stop your body from getting rid of the gastroenteritis virus

To prevent spreading gastroenteritis to other people:

  • isolate yourself or the sick person you are looking after; put them in their own room and prevent others from entering unless necessary
  • if you are at a campsite or other public place, consider going home to recover. You can be infectious for up to 48 hours after symptoms cease.
  • stay away from other people until well and for 48 hours after the last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea
  • avoid preparing food for others if possible
  • cook all food thoroughly
  • wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before preparing food and before eating
  • wash and dry your hands well using soap and water and, ideally, follow this with hand sanitiser
  • avoid vomiting in sinks or shared basins/surfaces. The toilet is the best place.
  • clean up vomit or excretia using gloves (if available), detergent and hot water followed by bleach (household bleach diluted 1part bleach to 10 parts water), or a bleach-based disinfectant
  • immediately remove and wash any contaminated clothes and bedding using detergent and hot water
  • prepare for gastroenteritis when you pack for a holiday or travel: paper towels, soap and hand sanitiser. Consider packing a small bottle of bleach
  • report the illness to campground or DOC staff if relevant

When to see a doctor

People are advised to see a doctor if they, or a family member:

  • has blood in their vomit
  • gets any new or worse symptoms
  • has vomiting or diarrhoea for longer than three days
  • becomes badly dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include: little or no urine passed in the last 8 hours and the urine is dark and smelly; reduced saliva in their mouth, no tears, sunken eyes, sunken fontanelle in infants; dizziness, lethargy (no energy), floppiness, a rapid heart rate and breathing, cool hands and feet or grey cold skin; skin doesn’t relax after being pinched.

Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do