Be Vigilant Against Norovirus Gastroenteritis

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Centre for Health Protection of the Hong Kong Department of Health reminded the public and management of institutions to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene in view of the detection of 15 institutional outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis in the past two weeks.

A CHP spokesman said eight out of the 15 outbreaks occurred in kindergartens and child care centres, four in elderly homes, two in residential care home for the disabled and one in a primary school. A total of 120 people were affected. Five of these outbreaks were confirmed to be caused by norovirus.

"This showed an apparent increase when compared with an average of zero to two institutional outbreak(s) per week between November 9 and December 6.

"Moreover, CHP's sentinel surveillance system based at general practitioners for acute diarrhoea also indicated an upsurge in the past week," he said.

The number of acute diarrhoea cases during the week ending December 13 was 35.0 per 1,000 consultations, while the figures for the preceding four weeks ranged from 19.8 to 27.7.

The spokesman said norovirus, a common cause for viral gastroenteritis in winter, could be transmitted via food or water contaminated with the virus, contact with vomitus, faeces or any objects contaminated by the virus, or by aerosol spread with contaminated droplets of splashed vomitus.

"Proper management and adequate disinfection of vomitus and faeces matter is of crucial importance in preventing and controlling the spread of the disease," he said.


"CHP has sent letters to institutions including elderly homes, schools and hospitals to remind the management to be on the lookout for symptoms of viral gastroenteritis among residents, students and patients, and report any suspected outbreaks to the CHP.

He said that 122 acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in institutions involving 1010 people had been reported so far this year. In 2007, there were 155 acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in institutions, affecting 1582 people.

To prevent the spread of viral gastroenteritis, the public should observe the following precautions:

* wash hands thoroughly before handling food and eating and after using the toilet or handling vomitus or faeces matter;

* wear gloves when disposing of vomitus and faeces and wash their hands afterwards;

* clean and disinfect contaminated areas or items promptly and thoroughly with household bleach diluted at a ratio 1:50 (by adding 1 part of household bleach to 49 parts of water);

* maintain good indoor ventilation;

* make sure that food, particularly seafood and shellfish, is cooked thoroughly.