Cases of stomach virus persist

Higher than normal cases of gastroenteritis cases have been seen in Grand Cayman throughout February.

Although the number of cases are declining, the Public Health Department is urging people to practise good hygiene to stem the stomach flu outbreak.

In the week ending Friday, 25 February, about 85 cases were reported, said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar.

Typically, between 15 and 25 cases are seen in Cayman’s public hospital and clinic, but in the first week of February, there were 64 cases, 132 the following week and 133 the week after that, Dr. Kumar explained.

Since 5 February, 42 children and five adults were hospitalised and all recovered.

“During the same period (5–25 February), we tested 22 stool samples of which 11 were positive for Norovirus and eight were positive for Rotavirus, thus indicating that we are experiencing a viral gastroenteritis outbreak,” Dr. Kumar said.

The symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhoea, fever and chills, abdominal pain and blood in the stool in severe cases.

Viral gastroenteritis usually lasts a few days, though in some cases can last weeks. The incubation period is one to two days and a person is infectious during the acute stage of the illness and for up to 48 hours after the diarrhoea and/or vomiting has stopped. Affected persons should stay away from school/work until 48 hours after the vomiting and/or diarrhoea has stopped.

Gastric flu usually goes away on its own without treatment. People suffering from gastroenteritis should get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids, including clean water, clear soups and electrolyte drinks. They should avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol, coffee, tea, colas, milk, fruit juice and sports drinks.

To stem the outbreak of any diarrhoeal disease, the Public Health Department is urging people to avoid contact with those who are ill; keep sick children out of schools/nurseries; stay away from work until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped; wash your hands often, especially if you care for a sick person: scrub hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand cleaner, especially after using the toilet. You can also use antiseptics such as Dettol or Savlon.

Other steps that can be taken to combat such outbreaks are: control flies by ensuring sanitary premises, including proper collection and disposal of garbage; drinking water must be safe – use desalinated, bottled or boiled water; disinfect cisterns by adding 2½ ounces of bleach for each 1,000 gallons of water in the cistern; soiled disposable diapers should be placed in a garbage bag and securely tied. The bag should then be placed into a securely covered container for collection; toilets should be disinfected after use by sick persons, so that others will not contract the illness; do not share towels, cups, or food with sick people.