PEOPLE are dropping like flies in the region with high rates of gastro, salmonella and mosquito-borne infections.
Hunter New England Health public health physician Dr David Durrheim said the Peel Cluster of the HNE local health district had 10 laboratory confirmed cases of rotavirus (the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in early childhood) notified this year which compares to three in 2011 and four in 2010.
It is a dangerous infection for infants and the elderly due to the dehydration it caused.
“The symptoms of viral gastro can include vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and loss of appetite which can make a person lose more fluid than they can keep down,” Dr Durrheim said.
“The symptoms may also lead to dehydration which needs to be treated immediately.
“It’s important to remember that babies can become dehydrated very quickly with gastro. A baby less than six months old who has gastro should be taken to a doctor or local emergency department immediately.”
Dr Durrheim said the best way to avoid gastroenteritis was by washing hands thoroughly with soap and running water before handling and eating food and after using the toilet.
He also warned any with symptoms to avoid visiting hospitals (unless seeking treatment), aged care homes and child care facilities.
With summer approaching, Dr Durrheim also issued a warning about food poisoning or salmonella.
“It is a challenge to keep food at safe temperatures when you only have an esky or barbecue at hand,” he said.
“The germs that cause food poisoning can multiply rapidly on a warm day.
“Other factors that can increase the risk when dining outdoors can include small cooking spaces where raw and cooked foods are placed side-by-side, using the same utensils and plates for handling raw and cooked foods, and limited opportunities for hand washing.”
To reduce your risk, ensure you always wash your hands before eating and handling food and after handling raw foods, particularly meat and if soap and water are unavailable, an alcohol gel is useful.
WATCH OUT FOR MOZZIES
AS THE weather heats up and thoughts turn to outdoor fun, Hunter Health is warning everyone to be vigilant about mosquitoes.
There is an increase in mosquito activity and breeding during the warmer months, which heightens the risk of Ross River virus and Barmah Forest infection.
Dr David Durrheim said as there was no specific treatment for these viruses and prevention lay solely in avoiding bites and minimising mosquito breeding grounds. Mosquitoes breed in still water such as marshes, ponds, dams, and even gutters and household containers and it only takes two to three weeks to produce large numbers of mature mosquitoes.
The best methods for avoiding infections is to not be outside unprotected after dusk, avoiding still water breeding grounds and use a repellant that contains the chemical DEET or picaridin.