RESIDENTS at the Strathearn aged care facility have been confined since July 3, after a gastroenteritis outbreak.
It’s believed the infection came from a visitor to the low care area of the facility, with 54 residents so far falling
At the time of writing, 15 residents were still infected in high care and it is expected this area will remain closed to visitors for several more days.
The low care area is expected to reopen sooner.
Strathearn chief executive officer Matthew Downie said while staff deserved praise for their management
of the infection, it was critical visitors were more vigilant.
“There are many frail residents in our care who are at risk from any type of infection and gastroenteritis is especially problematic.
“Common infections that are well tolerated by healthy people can be a problem for the elderly and people whose immune systems are low. If visitors have any signs or symptoms of an infection of any kind we
encourage them to tell staff who can take steps to keep our residents safe, or better yet, delay visiting until those symptoms have gone for at least 48 hours.
“If a visitor has symptoms of a cold they are often still able to visit, and we simply show them some infection control procedures to observe during their visit,” Mr Downie said.
Dr Craig Dalton, public health physician from Hunter New England Health, said gastroenteritis was particularly hard to control in community environments such as aged care and child care facilities.
“Often gastroenteritis is caused by the norovirus, which is especially infectious,” he said. “You only need a very small exposure to become infected and it is airborne, which means that if you enter an area where someone has vomited or had diarrhoea you can become infected.
“There is also no long-term immunity to it, which means people who have had it previously can still have it again. It is a relatively mild virus, but if you are elderly 24 to 48 hours of vomiting and diarrhoea can be fatal
because they can dehydrate more, it can lead to falls and worsen pre-exiting cardiac disease.
“People can be infectious for up to 48 hours after their last symptoms and people with the flu can be infectious for up to a week afterwards.
“If you have any signs of illness, or have recently been ill, it is always good to phone a nursing home or child care facility to talk to staff before you visit.”
Mr Downie said staff at Strathearn had managed the outbreak very well.
“Staff have been fastidious in observing infection control procedures and in caring for all residents during the outbreak, including donning a new full gown, gloves and masks when caring for each resident,” he said. “It has increased their workload fairly dramatically, but they have risen to the challenge and ensured all of the residents are comfortable, and we have put extra staff on shift where available.”
“However it has placed a lot of pressure on the team here, with 25 staff over the last week also falling sick with the virus, despite all the measures we have taken.
“Friends and family of the residents have been very understanding, staff are appreciative of their support and we look forward to opening.”