How Gastroenteritis Can Spread Throughout a Family: What (Not) To Do

"Stopping Gastro Spread" is simple! Just stick to the guidelines...

“Stopping Gastro Spread” is simple! Just stick to the guidelines…

Below is a real example of how a case of gastro spread through a family. Have a look then we can analyse how this could have been avoided:

(Photo Source here)

Friday: Child A sick Friday early hours. Improved during the day.
Saturday: Child A and sibling Child B went to Grandparent A’s house Saturday day to stay the night.
Sunday: Child B sick early hours. Mother (at home) also sick.
Tuesday: Grandma A sick AND Grandparents B arrive to Family home. Husband cooked dinner.
Wednesday: Husband sick in early hours.
Friday: Grandma B and Granddad A both sick.

What does this tell us:
1. Within 7 days, 7 family members have all contracted the virus.
2. The incubation period is roughly 48 hours
3. The infection spread most likely occurred from direct and indirect contact with infectious secretions
4. The virus is highly contagious

The Analysis!
At least three of these cases could have been avoided, can you guess who they are?

Right! Grandma A, Grandad A and Grandma B. Let’s look at why:

Child A is sick Friday, and according to Health Guidelines, may be symptomless by Saturday but should still be considered infectious. Guidelines advise that individuals rest at home for 48 hours after the last symptoms has occurred, be it a bout of vomiting or diarrhoea.

The First Bad Move:
Taking Child A to Grandparent A’s house: This allowed the transmission of (still present) infectious virus particles.

But taking Child B to Grandparent A’s house was also a bad idea…can you guess why?

Well, considering the high infectivity of Norovirus, (the current Gastro pandemic), it was highly probable that other family members would be infected by Child A’s germs and start exhibiting symptoms roughly 48 hours after initial exposure (which Friday, in the early hours). And so, almost unsurprisingly, that night Child B and Mother both start vomiting.

Grandmother A could have been infected by dealing with Child B’s vomit or could have been infected before Child B started vomiting from virus particles still present on Child A.

The Second Bad Move
Allowing visitors to a house of recent gastro infection: Grandparents B arrive on Tuesday!
Why was this a bad move? Firstly Norovirus has demonstrated an ability to survive for prolonged periods of time in the environment, meaning that only three days after the last case of infection (Mother: Sunday early hours), there were most likely infectious particles still remaining in the house.

In addition to that, Mother and Child B would have been at the tail end of their ’48 hour-rest at home’ period. This means that they are still technically considered infectious and shouldn’t come into contact with healthy people.

Secondly, although the incubation period was slightly longer for Father, it is still within the normal range for Norovirus and the risk of him ‘escaping’ the bug still couldn’t be ruled out on Tuesday. So what occurred was a potentially infectious person (in the very early stages albeit) preparing food for non-exposed individuals. It was either the food prep, contact with still infectious Mother and Child B plus contact with the virus particles in the home environment that resulted in the infection of Grandma B three days later.

5 Simple Solutions
These are so easy and very simple: The exact reason why I have started “Stop Gastro Spread”! By following these simple guidelines we can easily limit the spread of this bug:
1. Rest at home for 48 hours post last symptom. This means no school, work or any area in the public domain. That means no playgrounds too!
2. Consider, very carefully, whether it is wise to let close family members (who may be incubating the bug) go to the homes of others during this period, (particularly over night as it my both my experience and the experiences of others I know, that the bug loves to start playing when it’s late and dark!).
3. Avoid visitors, or at the very least warn them about the recent infection in your house before inviting them in. That way they have a choice as to whether they want to risk being exposed to the infection and high chances of catching it.
4. If you have been dealing with your own sick kids and need to leave the house for some reason, clean your hands thoroughly before doing so and do not bring food prepared from home with you. I would apply this rule for some time after the infection has cleared up too. This rule is crucial to adhered to if it involves a Bake Off or food for a large quantity of people. A food handler in the USA once infected no less than 55 people whilst working hours after a Norovirus infection.
5. Give your house a thorough clean once there has been a period of 72 hours of no new cases. Bleach is one of the few (and perhaps only) product that can kill Norovirus. More tips on cleaning coming soon…

Has Gastro whipped around your family in a similar fashion before? How did you try and limit the spread?

For more info on Gastro, please scroll through the Gastro category x

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