Naomi Cook is a Registered Nurse, Author, Writer and Mum of Two. Here she shares her top tips on how to stop the spread of the Dreaded Gastro this season:
Winter is the prime time of the year for the spread of infectious illnesses. Last year a particular strain of Gastroenteritis called Norovirus started circulating world-wide and began causing outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhoea in Australia as early as January this year.
This strain wreaked havoc in the European Winter and so we had the heads up over there on how bad we could expect it to be. Most parents have been sitting tight with fingers crossed hoping they won’t be affected this year but there is something more proactive that we can all start doing to reduce the spread of gastro in our local community and that is to start talking about ways to minimise spread.
Unlike colds and flu, gastro is actually a lot easier to contain, but only provided certain guidelines are abided by:
Rest at home for 48 hours after your last gastro symptom. This may be a bout of vomiting but will more than likely be the last bout of diarrhoea which can continue for some time after the vomiting has ceased.
Rest at home means: Keeping children home from day-care, school, extra-curricular activities and for you, may mean leaving the shopping for another family member in addition to avoiding public transport and other areas of the public domain.
Scrupulous Hand-washing. Washing hands for 15 seconds, vigorously, can help remove Norovirus germs from hands. Note that studies haven’t shown alcohol based hand sanitisers to be effective in killing Norovirus germs specifically, but in the absence of any other easily available hand anti-microbial, it is recommended as a supportive measure or in place of soap and water if there is none available.
Food & Friends. No one likes to catch a batch of freshly brewed germs from their friends so if you have had gastro in your house recently, it would be prudent to warn friends before inviting them over and do not visit others if you or your children are still experiencing symptoms (or are within the 48 hour post symptom window). Similarly, preparing food for others when you or your children have recently had gastro is a classic way of spreading the illness to others.
This is the big question because people will clear and excrete the virus differently in accordance with their own immune response, so there is no clear and cut answer to that question.
It is thought that individuals are still highly infectious for 48 hours after their symptoms resolve, although the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA suggests that period of high infectivity may be as long as 72 hours. It is also thought that Norovirus particles are excreted in human faeces for days to weeks after initial infection. In addition to that, Norovirus has been shown to survive for long periods of time on hard and soft surfaces; days to over a week.
Bearing all this in mind, acting cautiously with the health and wellbeing of others in mind is the best way to set about reducing the spread this winter. If amongst friendship circles and family networks and so on, we all start talking about ways to minimize spread there is a chance this will have a positive knock-on effect on the rest of the community.
I discuss these all these topics in greater detail on www.nursenaomi.wordpress.com so please feel free to have a look through and send any questions my way.