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Gastroenteritis cases on the rise in St. Maarten

FRIDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2013

~ 542 suspected cases January to Serptember, up from 431 for same period last year ~

PHILIPSBURG–A total of 542 suspected cases of gastroenteritis have been reported to health authorities between January and September. This figure is up from 431 reported for the corresponding period in 2012.

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the stomach and bowel (large intestine). The most common symptoms are vomiting and repeated episodes of diarrhoea (three or more episodes within 24 hours). The causes and treatment of gastroenteritis can differ between children and adults.

The Health Ministry’s Section General Health Care (SGHC) is calling on the community to take preventive measures to avoid getting the very infectious gastroenteritis.

The most common causes of gastroenteritis in adults are norovirus and food poisoning. It is self-limiting. The infection can spread when bacteria found in faeces are transferred to your mouth. Bacteria can be transferred through poor hygiene. For example, if someone does not wash his or her hands after going to the toilet, any viruses or bacteria on their hands will be transferred to whatever they touch, such as a glass, kitchen utensil or food.

Minister of Public Health Cornelius de Weever’s ‘Get Checked” campaign is in line with the preventive measures that should be taken to ensure that you don’t get gastroenteritis and pass it on to others.

To prevent the spread of the infection, persons should wash their 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 diarrhoea; 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 diarrhoea.

Persons were advised to consult with their family physician if they have vomiting or diarrhoea, so that they can be referred to the lab to get confirmation on the diagnosis and the virus type.

“Practicing good food hygiene will help you avoid getting gastroenteritis from food poisoning. You should regularly wash your hands, surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water; never store raw 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 is past its expiration date,” SGHC said. “If symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time, the family doctor may consider blood and stool tests to determine the cause of the vomiting and diarrhoea.”

Additional information can be obtained by calling tel: 542-2078, 542-3003 or emailsurveillance@sintmaartengov.org .

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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