Rotavirus outbreak in the Northern Territory


“Since late May there have been 23 cases reported, mostly in children from Central Australia, but further spread is likely”,  Centre for Disease Control Director, Dr Vicki Krause said.

“Rotavirus can cause fever, vomiting and watery diarrhoea. It is spread when objects, hands or foods contaminated with small amounts of faeces from those infected find their way to the mouths of those uninfected and often this is in very young children.”

“Rotavirus mainly affects children under 5 years of age, but adults can also be infected and pass the virus on to others. Very young children are most at risk of becoming severely dehydrated during an infection.”

“There are no specific treatments against rotavirus but it is important that sick people drink plenty of fluids. This can be water, oral rehydration fluids or fluids such as diluted fruit juice, one part fluid to four parts water. Babies should continue usual feeding and be offered extra boiled and cooled water in-between feeds.”

“Babies with symptoms and young children who refuse fluids, are overly sleepy and anyone who is very unwell should see a doctor. Sometimes hospitalisation is necessary to manage dehydration.”

The spread of rotavirus infection can be reduced by:

  • thorough hand washing especially after using the toilet, changing nappies or handling soiled items and before handling food and drinks
  • not letting the runny poo escape from a nappy (disposable nappies with elastic around the legs may work better for this), careful nappy disposal and cleaning of nappy change areas
  • never change nappies on tables or counters where food is prepared or eaten
  • clean books, toys, equipment, furnishings, floors and toilets regularly (including toilet door).

Anyone with diarrhoea should not:

  • prepare or handle food that will be eaten by others
  • attend childcare/school for 24 hours after the diarrhoea has ceased
  • swim, wade or paddle in public pools.

Rotavirus vaccine is available on the NT immunisation schedule at 6 weeks and 4 months of age and must be given by 14 weeks and 6 days of age for dose 1, and 24 weeks and 6 days of age for dose 2.

Rotavirus vaccination will not prevent all cases of rotavirus and even if a child is fully vaccinated they may still develop rotavirus but the disease will be much milder. Rotavirus vaccine is still recommended for children who have already had rotavirus as only partial protection is achieved from disease.

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