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Childcare gastro outbreak: Doctors try to pinpoint cause of child’s death



Little Zak’s Academy childcare centre in Artarmon has been hit with a gastro outbreak. Picture: Bob Barker

A CHILD has died following an outbreak of gastro at a lower North Shore childcare centre.

Six children at Little Zak’s Academy in Artarmon — aged between 11 months and four years — developed high fevers and vomiting over the past week caused by rotavirus gastroenteritis, health authorities have confirmed.

But a seventh child died, with the causes so far unknown, although the death is not being directly attributed to the outbreak.

Northern Sydney Public Health Unit director Dr Michael Staff said four of the sick children had to be admitted to hospital.

A computer-generated 3D image of a gastroenteritis virus.
A computer-generated 3D image of a gastroenteritis virus.

“Tragically, another child who also attends the centre died in hospital on October 23, but at this stage it appears unrelated to the gastroenteritis outbreak,” he said.

He said they were working with specialist paediatricians to understand the cause of the child’s death.

Parents were tonight in shock over the news of the death.

An email from the local health district informing them of what had happened was only sent through this afternoon.

Michael Kendall, father to five-year-old Charlotte, said that he was “furious” and would not be bringing his child back to the child care centre.

He said the centre should have been shut down during the outbreak — and that he only just found out about what had happened.

“It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life, I only found about it 15 minutes ago, I just heard that a child has died.

“If I knew my child wouldn’t have been here.

“I used to run a big centre down at the snow and our first priority was to take care of people especially kids, once you have an outbreak you’re supposed to tell the parents and shut the premises down.”

A spokesman for the centre said Public Health Unit advice was that “the outbreak appears to be under control and it is safe for children to continue to attend the Centre”.

FULL STATEMENT FROM LITTLE ZAK’S

“We can confirm we have today forwarded a letter from the Public Health Unit of the Northern Sydney Local Health District to the parents of all children enrolled at our Artarmon Centre.

It contains important information for parents about some recent cases of gastroenteritis involving children who attended the Centre, and guidance on what parents should do if their child becomes unwell.

“Tragically, the letter advises that one child who was enrolled at our Centre passed away in hospital on 23 October. It says, “The Public Health Unit is working with specialist paediatricians to understand the cause of death, but at this stage it appears unrelated to the gastroenteritis outbreak”.

“Everyone at our Artarmon Centre has been deeply saddened by this news and our directors have been in contact with the family of the child to convey our sincerest thoughts and condolences and to offer any support we can.

“Please be assured our Artarmon Centre is fully accredited and compliant with all health and regulatory requirements, and we endeavour at all times to operate to the highest standards of care and hygiene. As confirmed by the Northern Sydney Local Health District, we will continue to work closely with its Public Health Unit to ensure these high standards are maintained.”

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