Rise in stomach bug cases

The number of viral gastroenteritis
cases has risen six-fold in recent weeks, health officials have reported.

In a statement issued Wednesday,
the Public Health Department said there were an unusually highnumber of cases in the last month.

“Normally,
we see between 15 and 25 cases of gastroenteritis per week at Health Services Authority
facilities. However, during the first three weeks in January there have been
about 50-70 cases per week. Last week this number has risen to 122,” said Medical
Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar.

He added: “Both children and adults are affected, and,
based on the patients’ symptoms it appears to be the norovirus that is causing
the current outbreak.”

Gastroenteritis
is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestine resulting
in diarrhoea and vomiting, stomach cramps, fever and dehydration. 

Dr. Kumar said similar outbreaks
were occurring in other Caribbean
countries.

“…It
is passed in stools, usually for one week,” he said. “In addition, some viruses
live in the respiratory secretions of infected children, and may thus enter the
atmosphere.

“It is therefore important to practise good hygiene,
especially when a child passes stools indiscriminately. Also, if disposable
diapers are used, take extra care when disposing it,”
Dr. Kumar said

He added that flies could carry
germs from discarded diapers left in open garbage containers and spread them to
food and surfaces.

There is no medication to treat
people infected with viral gastroenteritis. Patients should ensure they prevent
dehydration by taking over-the-counter oral rehydration fluids; drinking coconut water, clear sodas or by
sipping on ice chips.

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