The Ministry of Health and Wellness has noted an increase in the number of reported Gastroenteritis cases by persons accessing the public health service. Epidemiological data generated by the public health surveillance system at the Ministry of Health and Wellness also corroborates a similar finding. During the month of December, 2016 we noted increases in gastroenteritis as is customary at that time of year. However, we continue to note increases in gastroenteritis from most of the health regions into the third week of January, 2017. The cases are noted mainly in children under five years of age.
Gastroenteritis is an acute (sudden) condition that affects the stomach and intestines. It can be caused by the ingestion of contaminated substances, usually food and water, which enter through the mouth and later gets into the digestive track. One of the principal and sometimes overlooked ways in which contamination and infection occur is via poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Some of these overlooked practices and habits are: unwashed hands, poor preparation, handling and storage of food and water.
Common signs and symptoms of persons with Gastroenteritis include; belly-ache, cramps, nausea (feeling sick), headache, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. In some cases individuals may experience several bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea in the course of the condition. It should be noted that young children/ infants (age range) are especially vulnerable to Gastroenteritis as well as elderly persons with weak immune systems as they can be prone to serious complications such as dehydration.
Persons with gastroenteritis are advised to:
- Increase intake of fluids, preferably clean water (boiled, coconut water, water with rehydration salts); and
- Reduce intake of oily or fried foods.
Parents are advised to monitor children experiencing signs and symptoms closely and access the community wellness centres for management and care of cases that are not resolving at home.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness urges everyone to pay special attention to the following preventative measures in an effort to reduce the chances of contracting Gastroenteritis:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and flowing /running (clean) water especially after using the toilet, changing diapers, handling garbage, playing with animals and before preparing or eating items of food.
- Wash and clean all surfaces on which food will be handled
- When handling or preparing food ensure that raw items are separated from cooked
- Refrigerate left over food item promptly and in small amounts
- Persons with wounds or open sores should not handle food
- Anyone experiencing diarrhoeal like symptoms should not prepare or handle food for other people.
- If you have Gastroenteritis symptoms ensure that you drink enough fluids (not alcohol) to keep hydrated
- Be vigilant in knowing who, where, when and how food offered for purchase or public consumption is prepared and handled to avoid getting sick.
- Children can get dehydrated quickly, so if your child has the stomach flu, it’s important that you look for signs that he is very thirsty or has dry skin or a dry mouth. If you have a baby, look for fewer, drier diapers.
- Keep children with gastroenteritis out of day care or school until all symptoms are gone. Check with your doctor before giving your child any medicine
- Immediately seek medical assistance if ; confused, unresponsive, weak, the fever does not go down, there is an inability to keep down any fluids, little or no urine, there is blood in the stools, or if the person has a serious underlying condition such as kidney disease.
We can reduce the number of cases by the adoption of proper sanitation and hygiene practices.
For further information call the Bureau of Health Education at 468-5349 or the Department of Environmental Health 468-3700.