‘Runs like wildfire’: Gastro outbreak could see popular campsites shut down

A popular Queensland campsite could be shut down if an emerging gastro outbreak cannot be brought under control.

Key points:The camping area was closed in late 2020 in response to a gastro outbreakA health official is urging people to reconsider visiting the site after reports of new casesThere have been 80 cases of norovirus at Inskip Point since December 2020

More than a dozen cases of gastro-intestinal illness at Inskip Point were reported to authorities over the weekend.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service public health physician Rob McClure said samples have confirmed the illness is norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

"One hundred per cent of the samples taken have come back with norovirus," Dr McClure said.

"It just runs like wildfire through densely populated areas."

Grassy area with trees and small camping tents.
The Sarawak West camping site on Inskip Point was shut down after a major gastro outbreak in 2020.(Supplied: Department of Environment and Science)

Management plan, bigger question

Visitor numbers to the site have been capped at 1,100 in an attempt to control the outbreak and the MV Sarawak campground has been closed to new arrivals.

"We've got a plan that we're working through with Parks and Wildlife to manage this in four components ," Dr McClure said.

"The first one is getting the evidence — who's sick, how many people are sick, where are they sick and what is the organism?

"It's a case of good quality health education and people being prepared, so that they can come with clean water, they can come with good washing in their camp facilities, and they can look after their hand hygiene."

A sign among trees pointing the way to Rainbow Beach.
K'Gari (Fraser) Island, Inskip Point and Rainbow Beach are popular with campers.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Owen Jacques)

Mr McClure says a bigger question is how campgrounds are built in the first place.

"I think we can think through in the future, how do we design campsites," he said.

"I think this is something that we'll look at over the next 12 months."

More than 80 cases have now been recorded at the Inskip Point campgrounds since December last year.

The Department of Environment and Science said extra rangers had been rostered on to provide additional campground services as Christmas school holidays approach.

Rangers are also increasing the frequency of deep cleaning as a further precaution.

A log on a white sandy beach near trees and dunes and a campsite.
Inskip Peninsula, north of the Great Sandy Strait, is a popular camping location and is also the gateway to K'Gari (Fraser) Island.(Supplied)

Closure on the cards

Dr McClure said if measures to control the outbreak proved insufficient the whole site may need to be closed.

"If we can't keep control of the infection, then yes, ultimate closure is something which everyone will consider and is probably seen as the next step up," he said.

He said people needed to carefully consider whether they should stay at the campground.

"It's substantial enough for you to think seriously about whether you want to take that move," he said.

For those who decide not to cancel their camping trip, Dr McClure advises drinking plenty of water and seeking medical help "at the slightest sign of becoming unwell".

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Posted 8 Nov 20218 Nov 2021Mon 8 Nov 2021 at 10:39pm, updated 8 Nov 20218 Nov 2021Mon 8 Nov 2021 at 10:59pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp


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