Viral gastroenteritis is running rampant through Victoria's childcare centres, with 12 outbreaks in Ballarat early childhood education and care services and several others in neighbouring council areas.
In the past month alone there have been 140 outbreaks notified to the state's health authorities bringing the total to 389 outbreaks in childcare so far in 2021 - four times more than the average for this time of year.
Two centres in Golden Plains have experienced outbreaks of the illness, along with one in Hepburn.
Victoria's executive director for communicable disease Dr Bruce Bolam said viral gastroenteritis was highly infections, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches.
The illness takes up to three days to develop and usually last between one or two days, and infants or children in early childhood services or school, as well as staff, should stay home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped.
"It is important that early childhood services have good hygiene practices in place and to respond quickly with thorough cleaning if any children become ill," Dr Bolam said.
"Handwashing with soap and water is still the best personal hygiene method to minimize the chance of spreading the virus.
Gastroenteritis can spread quickly through settings such as early childhood education and care services, where children play and interact closely with each other and can readily spread their bugsDr Bruce Bolam
"A good old-fashioned scrub with soap and warm water is the best way to remove the gastro virus from our hands and prevent passing it on to infect others."
Gastroenteritis spreads quickly through early childhood education and care services because children play and interact closely with each other which can readily spread the bug.
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While most families and centres have alcohol-based sanitizer to help tackle coronavirus, Dr Bolam said it was much less effective against bugs such as norovirus which is the predominant cause of the current wave of gastroenteritis outbreaks.
Dr Bolam said childcare workers, children and families all had a role in limiting the spread of the disease.
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