Health officials issue warning: diarrhoea outbreak

A health warning has been issued in the south west due to a huge increase in the number of cryptosporidiosis cases.

The South Western Sydney Local Health District Public Health Unit is aware of 71 causes of the diarrhoeal disease up to March 12 this year alone.

This is the highest figure since 2009 when there was a large state-wide outbreak.

Acting director Dr Madhumati Chatterji said the highest rates of infection are in children under five years of age.

“Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrhoeal disease caused by a parasitic infection of the intestine,” he said.

“The most common symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes fever, nausea and vomiting.

“There is no specific treatment for the condition and symptoms may last a few weeks in some people.”

The public health unit is advising people who have had diarrhoea not to swim in pools until at least two weeks after they have fully recovered.

A range of possible risk factors have been reported including swimming in pools, person to person contact, contact with animals and drinking untreated water.

To avoid getting infected, the public health unit has advised people to:

  • Always wash their hands thoroughly for 10 seconds with soap and running water after using the toilet, changing nappies or handling animals or their manure.
  • Avoid swallowing or putting pool or spa water in your mouth.
  • Not drink untreated water. Bringing water to a rolling boil will kill these parasites.

The Public Health Unit recommends parents do the following things to avoid pool contamination:

  •  Children who are not toilet-trained should wear swimming nappies or waterproof tight-fitting pants over swimmers.
  • Change nappies in a bathroom and not at the poolside as germs can spread to surfaces or objects in and around the pool and spread illness; if a dedicated nappy change table is used, the surfaces should be sanitised after use so as not to be a potential source of infection for the next child.
  • Wash their hands with soap and water after changing a child’s nappy.

Anyone concerned about their symptoms should contact their GP.