Letter to Residents of Searipple Camp from Pilbara Population Health – Public Health Unit 16 March 2019

Pilbara Population Health – Public Health Unit
Hedland Health Campus – Colebatch Way, South Hedland WA 6722
Telephone: 08 9174 1660
Email: wachspb_phcd@health.wa.gov.au
Saturday 16th March 2019 12 noon.

To All Residents of Searipple Camp

Re: Gastroenteritis Outbreak in Searipple Camp .Monday 11th to Thursday 15th March

I am the Public Health Physician for the Pilbara region, and as such have been co-ordinating the response to the gastroenteritis outbreak, and its further investigation. There has been quite a bit of mis-information on media and social media so it’s important that residents know the facts.

The Outbreak Details
• Up to midday today we have been notified of a gastroenteritis illness that has affected 28 residents of Searipple camp. Affected people began to have symptoms from late on the evening of Monday 11th March, through to the early hours of Thursday 14th. We have not heard of any new cases since.
• Of those 28 who have been ill this week, 21 have attended the Emergency Department of Karratha Health campus, and 13 have been admitted to the ward or stayed overnight.
• The staff at Searipple Camp have been very supportive of those sick by checking on their welfare and offering electorlytes and other fluids light foods, and a change of linen and additional cleaning.
• Generally Searipple camp has increased additional cleaning and advised residents to be extra careful with their handwashing before food and after going to the toilet. Hand cleaning gels are to be used before eating in the dining rooms.
• The first specimens taken last week have now returned with the diagnosis of Salmonella species.

What do you do?
• If any further cases of diarrnoea and vomiting occur please notify the camp administration and your work supervisor, and attend the Emergency Department at Karratha Health Campus to have a specimen taken. This is to check if this is the same bacteria and part of the same outbreak.
• Anyone who had a specimen taken will be advised of the results of their specimen.
• Anyone who has been sick is advised to
o not return to work until 48 hours after their last diarrhoea, and to
o not travel by air or enter the common dining room area until after 24 hours since last diarrhoea.
o Meals can be brought to your room if the camp administration is informed.

What is Salmonella?
• This is a bacteria that usually causes an acute diarrhoea, abdominal pains, fever, nausea and vomiting, and muscle aches or shivers. It can cause people to be very sick and then quite lethargic for a number of days after the diarrhoea has ceased.
• Salmonella outbreaks are quite common in Australia and around the world and often associated with contaminated poultry meats, eggs, milk, salads/leafy greens, fruits, or vegetables eaten raw. It is important that items eaten raw are well washed, and raw meats and eggs are well cooked to prevent it.

The next step – Investigation
• To investigate the cause of this outbreak, next week we will be conducting a food investigation, asking about the foods consumed by those sick, and also to coompare, camp residents who were not sick.
• This is called a case controlled study. This will help to identify which food may have been contaminated, and to trace it to the supplier.
• Food handling and processing, storage and cooking methods are also looked, and samples of food taken and tested at as part of the investigation.

Please contact me if you have any further queries,

Dr Heather Lyttle
Public Health Physician WACHS- Pilbara Office ph; 9174 1317 Mobile: 0416 008 912

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