News

Gastro sweeps along the Murray

By Charmayne Allison

HOLIDAY-MAKERS in Echuca-Moama have been left with a bad taste in their mouth as gastro continues to sweep through caravan and holiday parks along the Murray River.

The Camping on the Mighty Murray River Facebook page has been flooded with posts and comments after vacationers in Echuca, Cobram, Torrumbarry, Tocumwal and Yarrawonga were left battling the dreaded bug.

Many are looking for answers, questioning whether blue-green algae could be to blame — or the far more sinister threat of campers dumping food and bodily waste in the river.

While the Department of Health and Human Services is still investigating the source, it is urging safe hygiene, food handling and swimming practices at all times after the viral disease left several people recovering in hospital.

Leitchville’s Katrina Leckie was just one local who attended Echuca Regional Health after five out of seven people in her group were struck down by the illness.

‘‘My fiancé and I, his cousin and his wife and four kids from Kyabram went to a sandbar down O’Dwyers Rd,’’ she said.

‘‘All of us except my fiancé got sick in the end, some with vomiting and others with diarrhoea. I copped the worst with bad tummy cramps as well.

‘‘Only I ended up going to hospital as I was so dehydrated and in so much pain — I came home six hours later.

‘‘We were just hoping for a relaxing summer day out on the river — we never thought we’d end up battling gastro.’’

While some holiday-makers were concerned blue-green algae was causing the illness, Goulburn Murray Water confirmed this was not the case.

‘‘GMW monitors the river and storages for blue-green algae outbreaks, of which we have no current warnings,’’ a GMW spokesperson said.

Echuca Regional Health director of nursing June Dyson said the hospital had treated a ‘‘small number’’ of locals during the past few days.

But she said contact with the Murray River had not been identified as a factor in the presentations to date.

DHHS said it was working with the local councils and facility owners to investigate likely sources and prevent further spread of the illness.

‘‘This includes thorough cleaning of the park’s bathrooms and common areas,’’ a DHHS spokesperson said.

‘‘Viral gastroenteritis in particular is highly contagious and spreads quickly from person to person where large numbers of people are gathered and sharing facilities, such as holiday parks.

‘‘It is therefore important to limit the spread of cases through good hygiene practices. This is a timely reminder for all holiday makers to wash their hands with soap.

‘‘It is also important to use safe food handling and healthy swimming practices at all times.’’

■For more information on how to avoid the dreaded bug, visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au