Episodes of gastroenteritis illness, otherwise known as the stomach bug, caused two Cabinet Ministers, including Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, to go to the hospital last week, it was announced at the Cabinet press briefing Friday.
In addition to Mr. Tibbetts, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford was absent from the Friday press briefing after also having to go to the hospital.
A third member of the Government, Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden, was also stricken with the ailment, Minister of Health Anthony Eden said.
‘As many of us who have lived here for some period of time know, these sorts of things happen periodically,’ Mr. Eden said of the outbreak of the stomach bug.
‘We’re viewing it as a type of virus.’
The Public Health Department and the Department of Environmental Health said in a press release Friday it was monitoring the increased incidence of gastroenteritis illness.
‘Usually there are 15-25 cases of gastroenteritis weekly,’ said Dr. Joy Wallace-Grant, acting director of Public Health.
For the month of January, 91 cases were reported, which was within the norm, but by 18 February, the number rose to 217 cases, according to the press release.
Of that number, 84 were children age five and younger, and 39 of them were admitted to the Cayman Islands Hospital for treatment.
Dr. Wallace-Grant said all of the patients had recovered from their illnesses.
Gastroenteritis can cause diarrhoea and vomiting; abdominal cramps; fever; and dehydration. The illness is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestines, caused by a variety of viruses or bacteria.
The most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in infants and young children, especially in the winter months, is a virus — specifically rotavirus.
‘From January to 18 February we tested 98 stool samples for organisms, (based on which it was determined) that this outbreak appears to be viral in origin,’ Dr. Wallace-Grant said.
Outbreaks tend to be seasonal, she said, noting that 289 cases were reported for this same period last year.
Tim McLaughlin, public health surveillance officer, explained the usual course of the disease.
‘Symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting will persist for two to three days. A fever might persist for several days after, but it may or may not be present with fever, headache and abdominal cramps,’ he said.
Since dehydration is possible due to the diarrhoea and vomiting, it is important to replace lost fluids.
Mr. Eden suggested people who come down with the symptoms seek medical help.
‘It doesn’t take much to get dehydrated,’ he said.
Mr. Eden said that if there were any doubt as to the safety of drinking water, it should be boiled.
He also suggested people wash their hands frequently and to avoid large crowds as much as possible.