Viral gastrointestinal outbreaks in residential care facilities: an examination of the value of public health unit involvement

Authors

  • Craig Davis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Communicable Diseases Unit, Department of Health, Queensland
    2. National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory
    3. School of Population Health, The University of Queensland
    • Correspondence to: Mr Craig Davis, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston, Qld 4006; e-mail: craig.davis@uq.net.au

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  • Hassan Vally,

    1. National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory
    2. School of Public Health and Human Biosciences, La Trobe University, Victoria
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  • Robert Bell,

    1. OzFoodNet (Queensland), Communicable Diseases Unit, Department of Health, Queensland
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  • Frances Sheehan,

    1. Communicable Diseases Unit, Department of Health, Queensland
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  • Frank Beard

    1. Communicable Diseases Unit, Department of Health, Queensland
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  • The authors have stated they have no conflict of interest.

Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the value of notification to public health units (PHUs) in the management of viral gastrointestinal outbreaks in residential care facilities (RCFs) in Queensland.

Methods: Routine outbreak characteristics and control measures were collected at notification and conclusion of outbreaks notified between May and August 2008. This was supplemented with detailed interviews with RCFs and PHUs, including perceptions of the value of the RCF-PHU interaction.

Results: Norovirus was the confirmed aetiological agent in 39 (68%) of 60 outbreaks. A significant association was found between increased outbreak duration and longer (≥4 days) time to outbreak notification (p<0.01) and larger facility size (≥150 people; p<0.05). Increased attack rate was not significantly associated with either time to outbreak notification or facility size, but was significantly associated with difficulty in cohorting (p<0.05). Most (92%) RCFs considered that outbreak notification was important and that PHU support was useful (97%). Most PHUs (77%) also considered that outbreak notification was important.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates an association between prompt notification of viral gastroenteritis outbreaks to PHUs and shorter duration of outbreaks.

Implications: This study provides evidence to support recommendations in current Australian guidelines that notification of outbreaks should occur promptly.

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