Ministry of Public Health advises community to take measures to prevent gastroenteritis

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GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, is calling on the community to take preventive measures to prevent getting gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and intestine a.k.a. stomach flu, which is usually due to acute infection by viruses or bacteria resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.

With gastroenteritis, the main symptoms are watery diarrhea and vomiting. You might also have stomach pain, cramping, fever, nausea, and a headache.

Because of diarrhea and vomiting, you also can become dehydrated. Watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry skin and a dry mouth, feeling lightheaded, and being really thirsty. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Children can get dehydrated quickly, so if your child has the stomach flu, it’s important that you look for signs that he is very thirsty or has dry skin or a dry mouth. If you have a baby, look for fewer, drier diapers.

Keep children with gastroenteritis out of day care or school until all symptoms are gone. Check with your doctor before giving your child any medicine. Drugs used to control diarrhea and vomiting aren’t usually given to children younger than five.

The associated symptoms of Gastroenteritis 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).

There are many ways gastroenteritis can be spread: Contact with someone who has the virus; contaminated food or water; unwashed hands after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper.

The most common cause of gastroenteritis is a virus. Gastroenteritis or stomach flu can be caused by many different kinds of viruses, the main types are rotavirus and norovirus.

Rotavirus is the world’s most common cause of diarrhea in infants and young children. Norovirus is the most common cause of serious gastroenteritis and also foodborne disease outbreaks.

Although not as common, bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella can also trigger the stomach flu. Salmonella and campylobacter bacteria are the most common bacterial causes of gastroenteritis and are spread by undercooked poultry, eggs, or poultry juices. Salmonella can also be spread through pet reptiles or live poultry.

Another bacteria, shigella, is often passed around in day care centers. It typically is spread from person to person, and common sources of infection are contaminated food and drinking water.

Parasites can also cause gastroenteritis, but it’s not common. You can pick up organisms such as giardia and cryptosporidium in contaminated swimming pools or by drinking contaminated water.

The most common causes of gastroenteritis are the norovirus and food poisoning and it is self-limiting.

The infection can spread when bacteria found in feces 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, this type of transmission is fecal-oral.  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 other household members; and don’t return to work until 48 hours have passed since your last bout of vomiting or diarrhea.

Practicing good food hygiene is essential in preventing gastroenteritis. Good food hygiene entails properly and regularly washing your hands; properly and regularly clean preparation area/surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water; never store raw food and cooked foods together; avoid cross contamination of foods; make sure that food is properly refrigerated; always cook your food thoroughly; and never eat food that has expired (past its shelf date or sales date).

CPS is calling on all to prevent mitigate infections such as Gastroenteritis symptoms which source can be improper food handling and preparation.

Consult your family physician if you have the vomiting/diarrhea and/or persisting symptoms so that your physician can referred you to the lab to get a confirmation on the diagnosis and the pathogen to determine the cause of the vomiting and diarrhea.

For more information call CPS at 542-2078, 542-3003 or email surveillance@sintmaartengov.org