Ministry of Public Health calls on Daycare Centers and Schools to take immediate measures to prevent gastroenteritis

Minister Hon. Rita Bourne-Gumbs

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, is appealing to daycare centers and schools to take immediate measures and enhance preventive actions to curtail the number of gastroenteritis cases amongst the age group five years and under.

A high number of children under five-years of age have been ill with gastroenteritis. A high estimated amount of gastroenteritis infections have been diagnosed by physicians within the past two weeks with the majority of cases in children under five.

Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and intestine, which is usually due to acute infection by viruses or bacteria or to food-poisoning toxins and causes vomiting and diarrhea. Fluid loss is sometimes severe especially in infants and intravenous fluid replacement may be necessary.

The associated symptoms are diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, fever and headache.  The most common symptoms are vomiting and repeated episodes of diarrhea (three or more episodes within 24 hours).

The infection can spread when bacteria found in faeces or vomit is transferred to other objects.  Bacteria can be transferred through poor hygiene. It is spread through contamination of hands, objects or food infected with the aforementioned.  The virus enters your body via your mouth.  Viral gastroenteritis may also be spread through coughing and sneezing.

For example, if someone does not wash their hands after going to the toilet, any viruses or bacteria on their hands will be transferred to whatever they touch, such as glass, kitchen utensil or food.

To prevent the spread of the infection, wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food; clean the toilet, including the seat and handle, with disinfectant after each bout of vomiting or diarrhea; don’t share towels, cutlery and utensils with others.

Give plenty of fluids. Oral rehydration solution is highly recommended for children with mild to moderate dehydration.

Mildly unwell children should be given their usual fluids more often. Carbonated (fizzy) drinks or undiluted juice should be avoided.  Always double check with your house doctor to ensure the proper treatment for you and your family.

Medicines to prevent vomiting or diarrhea should not be given (especially in children), except where specifically advised by a doctor.  Breastfed babies should continue to be breastfed throughout their illness.

Children, who are hungry or ask for food should be given small portions of their usual foods, but avoid foods high in sugar or fat.

Signs of dehydration, such as thirst and decreased urination, lethargy, dry mouth, sunken eyes, feeling faint on standing,

fever, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and any symptoms in a child less than 12 months of age, you should contact your family physician.

Only by means of Lab confirmation can the type of virus can be identified to indicate the responsible type of virus for the increase of reported Gastroenteritis from the physicians and community the you should be referred to the lab to get a confirmation on the present circulating virus type.

For more information call CPS at 542-2078, 542-3003 or