Managing infectious diseases in aged care
Infectious diseases can catch and spread quickly in aged care setting. Learn about infectious diseases, how to manage them, and what to do in an outbreak.
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What are infectious diseases?
Infectious diseases are often spread from person to person. Outbreaks of common infectious diseases like colds, the flu, and gastro occur frequently in the general community.
In places where lots of people live close together, like aged care homes, outbreaks can be hard to control.
Senior Australians are particularly vulnerable to getting sick. For them, flu and gastro can also be life threatening. Flu can lead to complications like pneumonia, and gastro can lead to severe dehydration.
Managing the flu in aged care
The flu is highly infectious and potentially dangerous. Flu is most commonly spread by droplets from coughing and sneezing.
Read more about how to identify and control the spread of flu in these resource kits for home care and residential aged care.
Managing gastro in aged care
Gastroenteritis (gastro) causes nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Gastro is also highly infectious and is most commonly spread through contact with faeces and vomit.
Handwashing and thorough cleaning are particularly important to reduce its spread.
Read more about identifying, preventing and managing gastro in this gastro resource kit.
What is an outbreak?
In an aged care home, a flu or gastro outbreak can start with just 2 or 3 residents getting sick.
Flu and gastro can then spread very quickly to other residents, staff and visitors. For some other, rarer diseases, just 1 case can be considered an outbreak.
Providers must act fast to control the spread of infection.
What you need to do
Outbreaks of flu or gastro in aged care homes often need to be notified to your state or territory health department.
Further information on how to do this and resources to help manage outbreaks can usually be found on their websites.
Managing an outbreak
Everyone must take care to prevent and reduce the spread of infection at all times. Washing your hands is always very important. In the event of flu or gastro, you should also:
- increase hygiene measures, including strict hand washing and regular and thorough cleaning of ill peoples’ bedding and rooms, as well as kitchens and communal areas
- wear face masks, gloves and gowns when looking after ill residents
- collect specimens, such as swabs or stool samples, to send for laboratory testing to identify the cause of the outbreak
- isolate affected residents, caring for them away from others
- notify relatives and friends that their access to the facility may be restricted
Aged care homes can also place signs about restrictions and requesting visitors to wash their hands before and after visiting.
Staff and visitors should stay away from aged care facilities if sick.
Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting yourself and others against harmful diseases.
As someone working in aged care, it’s important to be vaccinated against preventable diseases. Encourage others to get vaccinated too, like co-workers, care recipients and visitors.
Ask your provider to record all your vaccinations on the Australian Immunisation Register.
Learn more about immunisation and how to get vaccinated.