Warning as gross disease hits festival

The outbreak of shigellosis gastroenteritis disease has been confirmed at Victoria’s Esoteric Festival at Donald, 300km from Melbourne, after revellers were warned about the dangerous and highly contagious bowel infection.

Victoria’s Department of Health has warned Shigellosis, a bowel infection, is spread by coming into contact with infected faeces.

The disease is spread through the bacteria getting on hands and into people’s mouths, or sexually through oral-anal contact.

The department is urging festivalgoers who attended the Esoteric Festival from March 8-12 to get tested immediately.

Symptoms are similar to gastro, including “an acute onset of diarrhoea, fever, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps”.

Severe illness and complication can occur in people who are at-risk, such as young children or the elderly.

A disease spread through faeces has hit a popular music festival. Picture: Esoteric Festival
A disease spread through faeces has hit a popular music festival. Picture: Esoteric Festival

“There has been a Shigella gastroenteritis outbreak among people at the Esoteric festival,” the Department of Health said in the warning.

“Additional patrons and staff who are returning to locations within Victoria and interstate may develop symptoms in the coming days.”

The outbreak was confirmed at the festival after 230 people who attended reported symptoms.

“People with shigellosis who work as food handlers, childcare workers, health care workers, or workers in a residential facility should not return to work until advised,” the department said.

The disease is becoming difficult to treat as it is becoming resistant to first-line antibiotics.

Acting chief health officer Ben Cowie said the infection is being transmitted through contaminated food or sexually.

“Symptoms may include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting,” Dr Cowie said.

“Symptoms usually develop one to three days following exposure but can occur as early as 12 hours to as late as one week afterwards in some cases.”

People with symptoms are being urged to practice food hygiene, practice good hand washing and practice safer sex.

The bacteria can continue to spread via faeces for up to four weeks even after symptoms disappear.

“Make sure you’re getting plenty of fluids and keeping hydrated – antibiotic treatment is only required in the case of severe infection,” Dr Cowie warned.

“Wash your hands often and thoroughly, especially after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food.”