Reported Cases of gastroenteritis in Saint Lucia reaches outbreak levels

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St. Lucia – The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, is issuing this statement to inform the general public of the noted increase in gastroenteritis cases presenting to health care facilities throughout the island.

For this year, to date over 700 cases of gastroenteritis have been recorded, a 30% increase in the numbers recorded for last year at this time. 5% of these cases have been admitted to and treated in hospital.

Most of the cases have been seeking care at the emergency departments of the OKEU and St Jude Hospitals. Elevated numbers of cases have also been recorded in certain health regions with as much as 130% increase in documented cases as compared to this time last year.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, typically caused by viral, bacterial or parasitic infections. It is often characterized by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.

Several factors may be contributing to the rise in gastroenteritis cases including:

  1. Viruses: Certain viruses, such as norovirus and rotavirus, are common causes of gastroenteritis outbreaks, particularly in shared spaces. We observe that the symptomatology and ease of resolution of the symptoms of the affected cases suggests a viral cause of the gastroenteritis.

The Ministry of Health is working towards identifying the exact causative agents for this outbreak and encourages persons to submit stool samples for testing.

  1. Contaminated Food or Water: Consumption of contaminated food or water can lead to the spread of gastrointestinal infections, especially in settings with poor hygiene or sanitation practices. This can be further compounded with inadequate water supply.
  2. Community Transmission: Close contact with infected individuals or exposure to contaminated surfaces can facilitate the transmission of gastroenteritis within the community and households. We also observe that many of the affected persons live within the same households.

While cases of gastroenteritis are not uncommon amongst the populace, the current maintained increase in cases warrants attention and proactive measures to prevent further spread within our communities.

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after vomiting or after a bowel movement and before handling food;
  • Use clean containers for water storage
  • Regularly rotate your stored water to ensure freshness
  • If you are unsure of the quality of your water please boil the water before consumption
  • Do not prepare meals if you are vomiting or have diarrhoea
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces and objects frequently to eliminate the virus/bacteria;
  • If you are sick, avoid going to work/school until 24 hours after your symptoms have passed.
  • If you have symptoms of gastroenteritis, please seek medical care at your nearest Wellness Centre if your symptoms do not improve or if you have signs of dehydration. You may be asked to produce a stool sample to help us identify the cause of your symptoms.

We continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as needed.

The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs remains committed to safeguarding the health and well-being of all Saint Lucians.

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