Edmontonians warned to wash hands after outbreak of stomach bug

Health officials are urging Edmontonians to take precautions such as washing their hands more often to curb a spike in the number of people falling ill to a stomach bug.

Since Sept. 1, there have been 47 gastrointestinal outbreaks reported in the Edmonton zone, Alberta Health Services said on Friday. During the same time last year, there were 18 similar cases.

Gastrointestinal illness is common year-round but is more likely to occur in the fall and winter. It can be spread through contact with ill individuals, food prepared by anyone who hasn’t washed their hands properly, or by swimming in contaminated water.

Symptoms almost always include diarrhea or vomiting and may include stomach cramps, muscle aches and low-grade fever. Symptoms usually last 48-72 hours and, in most cases, require no special treatment, AHS said. However, the illness can be debilitating for small children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

AHS urged people to wash their hands after using the bathroom, after caring for an ill person or after handling soiled laundry and before handling food. It also advised more frequent household cleaning when people are ill.

Anyone vomiting or suffering diarrhea should avoid attending school or child care facilities until two days after the symptoms end, AHS said. They should also steer clear of swimming pools and other recreational centres until two weeks after symptoms stop.

AHS also advised ill people to call in sick from work, avoid visiting the sick and elderly and not to prepare food for others.

bmah@postmedia.com

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