The Ministry of Health, Wellness & Elderly Affairs of Saint Lucia noted a significant increase in the number of recorded cases of gastroenteritis for 2023 in comparison to the same time period in 2022.
Despite this increase, the number of cases remains within the expected range for this time of the year. The general relaxation of proper hygiene practices may be causing this increase.
Acute gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, chemicals or medications. Investigations into the cases of gastroenteritis presented to the health care facilities and results of tested stool samples reveal viruses and bacteria as the causative agents.
Gastroenteritis is spread by:
• Direct contact with an infected person,
• Consuming contaminated food or water
• Touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth.
• Inhaling vomitus particles in the air.
Symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, fever, headache or muscle aches. Most cases of gastroenteritis are self-limiting; however, young children and the elderly, who are more susceptible, should be closely monitored for signs of dehydration such as decreased urination, dry mouth, crying with few or no tears or feeling drowsy or sleepy.
The following measures are essential to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis:
• Practice good hand hygiene by washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after vomiting or after a bowel movement and before handling food.
• Do not prepare meals if you are sick
• Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption
• Do not eat undercooked foods
• Ensure that you consume foods from certified food establishments
• Practice proper water storage methods. Boil stored water before drinking
• Disinfect contaminated surfaces and objects frequently to eliminate viruses or bacteria.
• Avoid sharing cutlery or utensils with someone who is ill
• If you are sick, avoid going to work or school until 24 hours after your symptoms have passed
The Ministry added, “Please seek medical care at your nearest Wellness Centre if your symptoms of gastroenteritis do not improve or if you have signs of dehydration. You may be asked to produce a stool sample.”
The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Elderly Affairs thanks the public for its continued support and solicits the help of everyone in keeping Saint Lucia healthy.