Public urged to help prevent spread of Gastroenteritis

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Dr. Judy Nisbett, Medical Officer of Health in the Ministry of Health on Nevis

Press Release

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (February 24, 2017) — Medical Officer of Health on Nevis Dr. Judy Nisbett, says there has been an increase in the number of persons coming to the Alexandra Hospital’s emergency room in February with gastroenteritis and is urging the public to help prevent the spread.

She said on February 23, 2017, that seasonal gastroenteritis, which is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines is seen sometimes in the cooler months of the year on Nevis. She urged the public to take the necessary steps to avoid getting infected with the contagious illness and to prevent the spread.

The main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea but Dr. Nisbett says persons inflicted by the illness may also experience stomach pain, cramping, fever, nausea, headache and malaise (low level energy).

Dr. Nisbett said the most common cause of gastroenteritis is a virus, the main types being rotavirus and norovirus. Though not as common, bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella can also trigger the illness. However, the cause can be determined through laboratory tests.

“Gastroenteritis is very contagious. The most probable way that the virus or bacteria is spread is through the faecal-oral route which means that faecal matter of an infected person can get into the mouth of an uninfected person.

“The infection can spread from person to person via  contact with an infected person or their possessions such as utensils, towels etc., consumption of contaminated food or water or unwashed hands after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper of an infected infant or assisting a sick person,” she said.

Gastroenteritis may last from 3-8 days and individuals are asked to note that they are still infectious up to three days after feeling better. Infected individuals who are not showing symptoms as yet are also infectious to others

The Medical Officer of Health also said that persons should ensure that they consistently clean surfaces with soap and water, since viruses can live on surfaces for a long time.

She stated that in the event one experiences vomiting and diarrhea or any of the listed symptoms of Gastroenteritis they should see a physician or visit the emergency room immediately. “Let us all do our part to prevent the spread of Gastroenteritis,” she said.

Dr. Nisbett advises that persons with the illness should get lots of rest and hydrate often with lots of fluids, as diarrhea and vomiting lead to dehydration.

“Children tend to get dehydrated quickly so parents are urged to ensure that they replace fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea,” she said.

She listed a number of ways in which persons could prevent the spread of gastroenteritis which she states is especially important at this time because of the public gatherings occurring such as sports and open days.

Hands should be washed thoroughly after using the bathroom, before handling food and before eating, changing a diaper and after coming from outside.

Hand sanitizers should be used where soap and water are not available for hand washing. Persons should avoid eating from infected persons. Avoid sharing utensils, towels etc. Avoid preparing foods for others if they are aware of being infected, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, eat well cooked foods, stay home if they are sick and keep their children out of school if they are sick.