Officials with Alberta Health Services said a spike in the number of patients with gastrointestinal illness has prompted the health authority to issue a warning to keep it from spreading more.

AHS said since Sept. 1, 2018, 47 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness have been reported in the Edmonton Zone – of those outbreaks, AHS said a total of 727 people reported being ill.

In the same time in 2017, AHS said a total of 18 outbreaks were reported. It wasn’t clear how many people reported illness.

Gastrointestinal illness is common year-round, but more likely in the fall and winter.

The illness can spread through contact with people who are sick, food prepared by anyone with poor hygiene, improperly handled or cooked foods, or swimming in contaminated water.

Symptoms related to the illness almost always include diarrhea and/or vomiting, and could include stomach cramps, muscle aches, and low-grade fever. Symptoms usually last between 48 and 72 hours, and patients usually don’t need special treatment.

To prevent illness, Edmontonians are advised to take the following precautions:

Wash hands after using the bathroom, after looking after someone who is sick and/or handling soiled laundry, and before handling food

Clean bathrooms and other household areas more often when people are ill, to prevent the illness from spreading

Anyone experiencing vomiting and/or diarrhea should avoid going to school or childcare facilities (until two days after symptoms stop), going swimming and/or to recreational facilities (until two weeks after symptoms stop), going to work, visiting friends and relatives in seniors’ residences, continuing care facilities or hospitals, and preparing food for others.

If you have symptoms, or need more information, call Health Link at 811.