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Call for vigilance against viral gastroenteritis

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 11) drew the attention of the public and the management of institutions to the prevention of viral gastroenteritis in the community, especially in view of the approach of the traditional peak season of the disease and the recent increase of its activity.

     A CHP spokesman said that seven institutional gastroenteritis outbreaks were recorded last week (January 1-7), as compared with two outbreaks in the week before. The CHP's sentinel surveillance systems at residential care homes for the elderly and child care centres/kindergartens have also showed an increase in acute diarrhoea activity recently.

     "Viral gastroenteritis, commonly caused by noroviruses, is a frequent cause of outbreaks in institutions. Norovirus outbreaks may occur throughout the year but are known to occur more frequently in the winter months. Although norovirus infection is usually mild and self-limiting, they are highly infectious and may result in outbreaks that are difficult to control. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and malaise. The infection can spread through consumption of contaminated food or direct contact with the vomitus or excreta of the infected persons," he said.  

     The CHP has issued letters to healthcare professionals and various institutions earlier to alert them about the seasonal peak of viral gastroenteritis and to provide health advice.

     The spokesman said, "Proper management and adequate disinfection of vomitus and faecal matter are of crucial importance in preventing and controlling the spread of the disease."

     To prevent the spread of viral gastroenteritis, the public should take the following precautions:

* wash hands thoroughly before handling food or eating and after using the toilet or handling vomitus or faecal matter;
* wear gloves when disposing of vomitus and faeces and wash their hands afterwards;
*clean and disinfect contaminated areas or items promptly and thoroughly with diluted household bleach (by adding one part of household bleach containing 5.25 per cent sodium hypochlorite to 49 parts of water);
* maintain good indoor ventilation; and
* make sure that food, particularly seafood and shellfish, is cooked thoroughly.

     Members of the public can obtain more information on the prevention of viral gastroenteritis from CHP's website ( or call the Central Health Education Unit hotline, 2833 0111.

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:47


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