Gastroenteritis outbreak in South Australia claims another life

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An outbreak of gastroenteritis at an aged care facility in Adelaide is of concern as it has claimed the life of a third victim.

An 88-year-old man, a resident for three years at the Adelaide Hills nursing home, died in hospital yesterday.

Two other residents of the Hahndorf Residential Care Service home, both in their seventies, died last week after contracting gastroenteritis.

The latest death was from salmonella poisoning suspected to have been contracted from food brought into the Hahndorf facility.

An 81-year-old woman remains in hospital and another 22 residents have been stricken, while the cause of the outbreak is yet to be confirmed.

The chief medical officer for South Australia (SA) says the latest death has been referred to the state coroner and investigations into the source of the outbreak are continuing.

The outbreak is suspected to be linked to salmonella from contaminated food but the possibility that the illness has spread to some residents from person to person contact is also being considered.

The outbreak at present appears to be confined to the nursing home.

Gastroenteritis is a common infection of the stomach and intestines which usually resolves itself within a few days without treatment.

The symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea,stomach cramps, headaches and a mild fever.

However if symptoms are severe or the person is vulnerable, the diarrhoea can cause rapid dehydration which can be fatal.

Those vulnerable include the elderly, people who have a weakened immune system due to another condition, such as HIV, or as the result of treatment, such as chemotherapy, pregnant women, and people who have inflammatory bowel disease, or kidney disease.

The symptoms of dehydration include tiredness, apathy,dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps, dry mouth, pinched face, sunken eyes, a decrease or total absence in urine production and a rapid heart beat.

Gastroenteritis can be caused by viral infections such as the norovirus or by a number of different bacteria - bacterial gastroenteritis develops as a result of food poisoning.

Treatment involves replacing the fluids lost by the diarrhoea and in more serious cases, where a specific bacterial infection has been identified, antibiotics may be used.

Gastroenteritis is usually highly infectious and good hygiene, such as washing your hands after going to toilet, and before preparing food, is essential.

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