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Acute respiratory illness (ARI) and viral gastroenteritis (gastro) infections are common illnesses , especially during the winter months.

Elderly people, particularly those living in aged care facilities, can be more vulnerable to these infections due to underlying medical conditions or medications that suppress their immune systems.

An ARI or gastro infection in an elderly resident may lead to functional decline, hospitalisation, and in some cases death.

Aged care facilities can be challenging environments to control outbreaks of these illnesses due to staff, residents and visitor movement throughout the facility and interaction with each other, as well as residents sharing communal meals and other group activities.

Find out more about influenza and viral gastroenteritis.

Preventing the spread of infections

Family and friends should not visit an aged care facility when they are unwell with any respiratory or gastro symptoms.

Residents with respiratory or gastro symptoms will need to be isolated to prevent spreading the infection to other residents in the facility. Unwell staff should be excluded from work while they are infectious.

Cough and sneeze etiquette, as well as hand hygiene should be promoted to residents, staff, and visitors all year round, especially during the cooler months.

Reporting outbreaks

Under the Public Health Act 1997, aged care facilities must report outbreaks of ARI and gastroenteritis to ACT Health and implement outbreak precautions.

Acute respiratory illness (ARI)

You must report if you have 2 or more residents and/or staff with ARI within a 72-hour period. This includes COVID-19 or influenza.

Gastroenteritis

You must report if you have 2 or more cases of gastroenteritis among residents or staff within a 24 hour period.

How to report

Report a gastroenteritis or ARI outbreak in a residential aged care facility through the ACT Health Outbreak Hub.

Keep outbreak line list updated

Go to the ACT Health Outbreak Hub to record details of all people with symptoms. This must be updated by midday each day.

Testing during an outbreak

It is important to test early in an outbreak. Consult early with a general or nurse practitioner about testing unwell residents.

Acute respiratory illness (ARI)

All residents with ARI symptoms should be tested for COVID-19 (PCR preferred) and influenza.

The clinician can also request additional respiratory pathogen testing.

Gastroenteritis

Wherever possible, collect stool samples from 4-5 residents and arrange testing for viral studies and MC&S.

Infection prevention and control

To limit the spread of infectious diseases, appropriate infection prevention and control practices should be employed to minimise transmission of infection.

Use effective hand hygiene, isolate unwell residents, and exclude unwell staff.

Other infection control measures include:

  • using personal protective equipment
  • increasing frequency of effective environmental cleaning
  • managing the movements of residents, staff, and visitors.

For more information about managing ARI outbreaks, go to the ACT COVID-19 website.

Read the Gastroenteritis Check-list for more information about prevention and control of this infectious disease in an aged care setting.

For advice about infection prevention and control, call the Communicable Disease Control Information Line on 02 5124 9213 and ask to speak to a member of the Infection Control team.

Posters for aged care facilities

You can display the following posters around aged care facilities:

Posters and brochures are available for order from the Immunisation Unit on 02 5124 9800.

More information

Go to the Australian Government Health and Aged Care website for:

Find out more about getting the flu vaccination if you work in aged care.

This page is managed by: ACT Health Directorate