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Heightened vigilance urged amid increasing acute gastroenteritis activity
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (November 8) urged the public and management of schools/institutions to maintain strict personal, hand, environmental and food hygiene in view of the recent increase in local activity of acute gastroenteritis (AGE).

     "Our latest surveillance data show that Hong Kong is entering the traditional season of AGE, which is a frequent cause of outbreaks in schools/institutions commonly caused by norovirus and rotavirus. AGE is highly infectious and may result in outbreaks which are difficult to control. AGE outbreaks may occur throughout the year, but are known to occur more frequently in winter," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     The number of institutional AGE outbreaks rose from two (affecting 11 persons) in the week of October 1 to eight (affecting 51 persons) in the week of October 29. As of yesterday (November 7), three outbreaks (affecting 20 persons) had been reported this week. Most outbreaks occurred in kindergartens and child care centres (KG/CCCs).

     In addition, the DH's sentinel surveillance on KG/CCCs also recorded corresponding increases in AGE activity. The percentage of KG/CCCs with children affected by diarrhoea sharply increased from 8.22 to 22.64 per cent in the above period, while that with children affected by vomiting rose from 10.96 to 24.53 per cent.

     "We have issued letters to doctors, hospitals and schools/institutions today on the latest situation. Schools/institutions are reminded to follow the Guidelines on Prevention of Communicable Diseases on preventive and control measures as well as management of outbreaks, which should be reported to the CHP for prompt follow-up. Health advice has also been given," the spokesman added.

     Symptoms of AGE include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and malaise. The infection can spread through consumption of contaminated food, through direct contact with the vomitus or excreta of infected persons, or via contaminated objects.

     To prevent the spread of AGE, the public should take heed of the following advice:
  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling food or eating, and after using the toilet, handling vomitus or faecal matter or changing diapers;
  • Wear gloves when disposing of vomitus and faeces and wash hands afterwards;
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated areas or items promptly and thoroughly with diluted household bleach (by adding one part of bleach containing 5.25 per cent sodium hypochlorite to 49 parts of water);
  • Maintain good indoor ventilation;
  • Use separate utensils to handle raw and cooked food; and
  • Make sure that food, particularly seafood and shellfish, is thoroughly cooked.

     Members of the public may visit the CHP's pages on norovirus infection and rotavirus infection for more information and preventive advice.
Ends/Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:18
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