Gleaner- Amid a rise in cases of gastroenteritis in St James and St Andrew, doctors at Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay have confirmed that a two-year-old boy who was admitted to the medical facility Tuesday night with symptoms of the disease died hours later Wednesday morning.
The child, who was first taken to a private hospital before his parents sought treatment at CRH, presented with vomiting and diarrhoea, said Dr Delroy Fray, clinical coordinator at the Western Regional Health Authority.
The head of the hospital’s Paediatric Unit, Dr Carleene Grant-Davis, said that cases were on the rise in St James. The virus occurs in adults as well, but children may be more severely affected.
Since Sunday, 112 children have turned up at Bustamante Hospital for Children with the intestinal infection.
“We had 28 children presenting with the symptoms on the 16th, 35 on the 17th, 26 on the 18th, and 23 on the 19th,” Dr Sandra Chambers, regional technical director of the South East Regional Health Authority, told The Gleaner, adding that the situation was being closely monitored.
The majority, she said, were treated and sent home with no cause for alarm.
Gastroenteritis can be caused by both viruses or bacteria. The viruses are quite contagious and cause damage to the cells lining the intestines, but Grant-Davis insists that most cases are not serious.
“But children can feel quite sick. In fact, virtually all children are infected with this virus by age three,” she said.
Grant-Davis explained that the rotavirus is the most common cause of gastro-enteritis and the infections occur most commonly from November through March and was once called the ‘winter vomiting disease’.
Symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. These symptoms, she said, begin one to two days after exposure to the virus and usually last three to eight days.
Prolonged or severe diarrhoea, particularly when accompanied by vomiting, can lead to dehydration. Signs of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth, and weight loss.
“As dehydration becomes more severe, your child will become cranky and irritable, his eyes will appear sunken, and he may have a faster heart and breathing rate. If dehydration continues, the kidneys will stop working and the heart will not have enough fluid to pump. The blood pressure will drop and your child will go into shock and can die,” she warned.
“Because these are viral illnesses, the use of antibiotics is not appropriate and may, in fact, make the diarrhoea worse. There is a vaccine available for babies under six months of age that can prevent severe cases of gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus,” Grant-Davis said.
She advised that gastro-enteritis can spread very easily so families should wash their hands regularly and stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after their symptoms have cleared to reduce the risk of passing it on.
Take your child to the doctor or the nearest emergency room if:
• There are symptoms of severe dehydration, such as persistent dizziness, only passing small amounts of urine or no urine at all, or if they are losing consciousness
• There is bloody diarrhoea.
• There is persistent vomiting and an inability to keep down any fluids.
• There is a fever over 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F).
• The symptoms haven’t started to improve after a few days.