Parents have been warned highly contagious gastro could harm babies as NSW experiences the worst outbreak of rotavirus in five years.
“We’re a little over 1,200 for the year and we haven’t seen this many notifications since 2012,” said Dr Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health’s director of communicable diseases, reports ABC news.
She said the highest rate of infection was in children aged two to four, and that metropolitan Sydney was the worst-affected area.
Admissions to the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick were up, too, with babies and toddlers presenting with fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Rotavirus can be really serious, especially in the youngest infants, leading to severe dehydration and even death in some cases,” said Dr Brendan McMullan, a paediatric infectious diseases specialist.
The rotavirus vaccine is given to babies at two and four months as part of the routine immunisation schedule.
Dr Sheppeard said that in NSW 90 per cent of children received the vaccine but that it did not offer complete protection.
The vaccine also wore after a few years, she said.
What is rotavirus and how serious is it? via Dept of Health AU
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in infants and young children in Australia and worldwide.
The severity of the illness ranges from mild, watery diarrhoea of limited duration to severe, dehydrating diarrhoea with vomiting, fever and shock. Rotavirus infections are often more severe than other causes of diarrhoea, are more likely to be associated with dehydration and are more likely to require treatment in hospital.
Prior to the introduction of rotavirus vaccination in Australia, almost every child was infected with rotavirus by the age of 5 years, and there was approximately 10,000 hospitalisations due to rotavirus in children less than 5 years of age each year. In addition to hospitalised children, an estimated 115,000 children under 5 years of age visited a GP, and 22,000 children required an emergency department visit. On average, there was one childhood death from rotavirus each year.
Children can be infected with rotavirus several times during their lives, and without vaccination almost every child will suffer from at least one infection by the age of 3 years. The disease is easily spread from one child to the next. Confirmation of rotavirus infection can only be made by laboratory testing of faecal specimens.
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