Ministry of Public Health advises community to take preventive measures to mitigate spread of 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 Labor, is calling on the community to take preventive measures to prevent contracting gastroenteritis.

CPS in observing a spike in its accumulated syndromic data under its surveillance responsibility, calls on all to prevent and mitigate the spread of gastroenteritis which source can be improper food and drink handling and preparation.

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.

The most common symptoms are vomiting and repeated episodes of diarrhea (three or more episodes within 24 hours).

Frequent diarrhea and vomiting can result in one becoming 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 experience any of these symptoms.

Children can get dehydrated quickly, so if your child has the stomach flu, it’s important that you be on alert and monitor your child for signs that he is very thirsty or has dry skin or a dry mouth. If you have a baby, look for fever, drier diapers, and if you observe any of the above, do not delay, consult your physician. Gastroenteritis is typically spread (transmitted) from person to person, and common sources of infection are contaminated food and drinking water.

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

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; caring for the sick or the elderly and/or changing diapers.

The most common cause of gastroenteritis is a virus, but also other contributing factors are bacteria, unhygienic food and drink preparation or handling, and not proper or continuous hand hygiene.

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, Shiella, Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria, can also trigger the stomach flu. Salmonella and campylobacter bacteria are the most common bacterial causes of gastroenteritis which are spread by undercooked poultry, eggs, or poultry juices. Shigella bacteria, is often transmitted in daycare centers.

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.

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).

Consult your family physician if you experience gastroenteritis symptoms and especially if these symptoms are persistent, so that your physician can refer you to the lab to confirm a clinical diagnosis and the respective pathogen.

For more information call CPS at 542-1122, 542-1222, 542-1322, 542-1570 or emailsurveillance@sintmaartengov.org