Babies and young children have been admitted to a South Hedland hospital amid fears of a gastroenteritis outbreak.
The WA Country Health Service said nine of the 13 hospitalised children were confirmed as having rotavirus infection while other cases had been identified in the community.
Pilbara Public Health physician Heather Lyttle said notifications of rotavirus - a common cause of gastroenteritis in babies and young children - in the Kimberley had increased in recent weeks and it appeared the virus had now spread to the Pilbara.
“This current outbreak may last for several weeks,” Dr Lyttle said in a WACHS media statement issued this morning.
“This is not usually a food or water-borne infection, but it is spread directly from person to person, and through touching contaminated surfaces and objects such as toys, and then touching one’s mouth.
“Therefore it’s very important to emphasise hand washing after going to the toilet.
“Rotavirus gastroenteritis is likely to spread where people group together, such as in households, day-care centres, aged-care facilities and schools.”
Dr Lyttle said that while rotavirus most seriously affected babies and young children, their siblings and parents could also catch the virus.
“The symptoms of rotavirus are usually a fever and vomiting and then abdominal pains and a watery diarrhoea,” she said.
Dr Lyttle said if parents had a child experiencing the above symptoms they should take them to a doctor and keep away from group settings.
Rotovirus is usually seasonal and outbreaks tend to occur in cooler months (July to November).
WACHS said an oral vaccine to protect against rotavirus infection had been available in Australia since 2007 and was given to babies at two, four and six months.
If people have queries about rotavirus they can contact the Pilbara Public Health Unit on 9158 9222.