A western Sydney aged care facility has moved quickly to minimise the effects of a suspected outbreak of gastroenteritis.

Twenty-eight residents and six staff members at the 121-bed ageing in place Constitution Hill facility in Northmead displayed symptoms that matched gastroenteritis last Friday.

A spokesperson for Australian Unity which owns the home said most of those residents had returned to a stable status.

“Most of the 28 residents and all six staff members are back to normal,” said the spokesperson. “At this stage the problem seems to have been contained.”

Two residents from the home were hospitalised on Friday although one of the admissions was not related to gastroenteritis.

A death at the facility on Friday coincided with the outbreak but Australian Unity said the resident’s doctor had confirmed that gastroenteritis was not a contributing factor.

As of 11am today [Monday, 12 January], there were four residents still exhibiting symptoms with one new hospitalisation.

The group has advised family members of the outbreak as well as reporting relevant information to Sydney West Area Health Service (SWAHS) and the Department of Health and Ageing.

“We have taken all the necessary steps and measures required by the Department of Health and Ageing for a gastroenteritis outbreak, including restricting access to the home,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson confirmed that the outbreak has not had any effect on a day respite centre which operates out of the Constitution Hill facility, although the centre was closed today [12/01/09] as a precautionary measure.

SWAHS has issued a statement urging people to be aware of gastroenteritis and to take precautions to avoid the spread of germs.

“Viral gastroenteritis is very contagious and is usually spread through contact with an infected person, or through contact with contaminated surfaces,’’ Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Medical Officer of Health for Sydney West Area Health Service said.

“The best way to prevent infection is to wash hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet and after changing nappies.”

Symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches.

The cause of the outbreak at Northmead is still unknown but tests are currently being conducted to find the source.

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