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Warning Issued After 'Unusual' Spike In Gastro Cases

NSW Health has issued a warning after a spike in viral gastroenteritis cases at child care centres and hospital departments across the state.

A total of 86 child care centres reported outbreaks of the highly contagious infection between the beginning of December and Tuesday.

Just 20 outbreaks would usually be reported for the entire month. It's believed almost 550 children and 140 staff members became ill in the increased outbreaks.

The number of people seeking medical attention for gastro at emergency departments has also risen since the outbreaks, with 2557 presenting for help just last week. Almost a quarter of people who came to emergency departments were under five years old.

644 people were admitted to hospital for treatment.

More than 600 people admitted to hospital for treatment. Image: Getty Images.

NSW Health advises hand washing is a simple and effective way to prevent further spread of the infection.

"The best defence is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds before handling and eating food, and always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhoea or vomiting," NSW Health's Keira Glasgow said.

Symptoms of gastro include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au