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Heightened vigilance urged amid increase in acute gastroenteritis activity
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (March 22) called on members of the public to heighten vigilance against acute gastroenteritis (AGE), as the local activity of AGE has been increasing recently.
      According to the CHP's latest surveillance data, the number of institutional AGE outbreaks increased in the past few weeks, from two (affecting 10 persons) in the week ending February 25 to seven (affecting 63 persons) last week (ending March 18). As of yesterday (March 21), seven outbreaks (affecting 64 persons) had been reported in the past three days of this week. The CHP's epidemiological investigations revealed that the above AGE outbreaks are with a higher chance caused by person-to-person transmission or environmental contamination and the CHP has ruled out that the outbreaks involved food poisoning.
      In addition, the DH's sentinel surveillance of child care centres/kindergartens and residential care homes for the elderly also recorded corresponding increases in AGE activity.
     AGEs are usually caused by viruses, most commonly norovirus, rotavirus, and adenovirus, and occur more frequently in winter. The modes of transmission include contact with vomitus or faeces from infected persons, contact with contaminated environment or objects, and aerosol spread with contaminated droplets of splashed vomitus.
       "Members of the public and management of institutions are urged to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene. The CHP has issued letters to doctors, hospitals, schools and institutions today to draw their attention to the latest situation," a spokesman for the CHP said. Schools and 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.
     The spokesman advised members of the public to take heed of the following preventive measures against gastroenteritis:
  • Ensure proper personal hygiene;
  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling food and eating, after using the toilet or after changing diapers;
  • Wear gloves when disposing of vomitus or faecal matter, 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). Wash hands thoroughly afterwards;
  • Maintain good indoor ventilation;
  • Pay attention to food hygiene;
  • Use separate utensils to handle raw and cooked food;
  • Avoid food that is not thoroughly cooked;
  • Drink boiled water; and
  • Do not patronise unlicensed food premises or food stalls.

     The public may visit the CHP's pages on acute diarrhoeal diseases and norovirus infection for more information.
Ends/Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Issued at HKT 19:00
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