Just yesterday five-year-old Amber was stomping through muddy puddles with my daughter.
Bright, happy, vibrant her mother had today filled with plans for the pre-schooler. There were activities scheduled, a playdate and a whole heap of chores to get through.
Until just before breakfast when Amber clutched her stomach and vomited across the kitchen floor. All plans were cancelled as the Pine-O-Cleen was retrieved from under the kitchen sink.
The family of Amber, who happens to be my daughter’s best friend, bunkered down and lit up ABC KIDS with their fingers crossed that Amber just ate something that didn’t agree with her, rather than the alternative – that she was another victim of the growing gastro epidemic sweeping NSW.
Amber, alongside my daughter, Emme. Image supplied.
There is nothing that quite strikes the same kind of fear in a parent as when their child is sick, though it is perhaps nearly equalled by the news that your child's closest friend might just have a contagious strain of gastro.
Just yesterday we learnt that 49 separate outbreaks of gastroenteritis have been reported in childcare centres and aged-care facilities in the past three weeks across NSW - some linked to the norovirus strain. The recent wave of gastro brings the total number of outbreaks from the start of June to 98 – seeing more than 3300 young children and adults in NSW emergency departments in just the last two weeks.
NSW Health figures show that gastroenteritis cases have outstripped influenza cases in peak flu season, and frighteningly in school holidays leaving experts fearful of what might occur now school has resumed.
Health authorities actually suspect a new strain of the virus may be the cause of the outbreak.
NSW Health director of communicable diseases Vicky Sheppeard said childcare centres and aged-care facilities were at particular risk.
"We have seen a number of outbreaks," she told media yesterday.
"Probably, most of the outbreaks have been in childcare centres and you can imagine it's hard to maintain high levels of hygiene with children in child care.
"So once the bug does get into a childcare centre it does spread very rapidly."
It's with this in mind that Amber’s mother, Cassandra, has decided the best course of action today is to bunker down.
With two other school aged kids it’s the last thing I need, she tells me.
“Fingers crossed it's just an upset tummy, there is nothing worse than a strain of gastro sweeping through a household. That’s one nightmare I’d like to avoid."