Gastro outbreak prompts warning in Invercargill

A community outbreak of gastroenteritis has prompted a warning to Invercargill people to take special precautions, with seven of Southland Hospital's staff at home sick.

Southland Hospital acting general manager Jo McLeod said all patients presenting at the Emergency Department were asked to declare any symptoms to staff immediately upon arrival.

"This will mean that they can be appropriately supported and cared for in a way to avoid the spread of gastroenteritis to other patients and visitors".

Patients were not being turned away but people were asked to consider whether it was appropriate for them to first visit a GP.

"However, anyone clearly needing Emergency Department care shouldn’t hesitate to come to the hospital."

She said it was important to tell staff of any symptoms.

“Patients presenting at ED are also asked to limit the number of visitors who accompany them, to help limit potential transmission.

"We understand it is important to be supported by friends or whānau, but to keep patients, staff and visitors safe we need to limit the number of visitors to ED at this time.”

People should not enter the hospital as a visitor if they are sick, which includes cold or flu symptoms, or diarrhoea and vomiting.

“Everyone entering the hospital, as a patient or visitor, is asked to observe hand hygiene practices including washing their hands and using the hand sanitiser located at stations throughout the complex.

“People are still able to visit patients on the wards, but we would ask that if your visit can be delayed, that you do so. We also ask people to avoid visiting in groups, to minimise the spread of transmission."

She asked the Southland community to help protect hospital patients and staff by observing these health and hygiene measures.

“To reduce the risk of outbreaks we would encourage people to stay at home when they are unwell, this includes when people have a gastroenteritis bug.

“Hand hygiene is very important - wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and dry well. Portable alcohol-based hand rub is ideal when out and about. Cough and sneeze etiquette and respiratory hygiene is important, use tissues rather than hankies, wash your hands afterwards and cough/sneeze into your elbow,” she said.

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