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Gastro cases rising in Barima; situation being monitored – Health Ministry

Despite earlier assurances that the gastroenteritis outbreak at Barima, North West District (NWD) of Guyana was under control, authorities Wednesday said the number of reported cases has risen to 80.

However, an 11-month old child remains the only reported death so far.

Five days ago on January 8, 2016, the Public Health Ministry has said 60 persons were afflicted by the disease.

Junior Public Health Minister, Karen Cummings was quoted by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as saying that health workers were closely monitoring the situation in the Region One community where cases of vomiting, diarrhoea and bloody diarrhoea were detected in December.

According to the Minister, the report of gastro cases was first given on December 3, but after closely monitoring the situation, there was a small break period which was followed by the reports of several other cases in early January.

She added that there is a technical team on the ground, assessing the situation and working to keep it under control. This team comprises one doctor, one Medex and one Environmental Health Officer.  The Environmental Health Officer is monitoring the water to ensure it is not contaminated.

The Health Ministry earlier this month said major challenges in fighting the outbreak are the reluctance by residents to use treated water and take the full course of medications.

The illness is very ‘flu like’ with similar symptoms. The main symptoms are diarrhoea and vomiting. Some individuals may also experience stomach pain, cramping, fever, nausea, and headache. Dehydration can occur due to the diarrhoea and vomiting.

Signs of dehydration include dry skin and a dry mouth, feeling lightheaded, and becoming very thirsty.

Gastroenteritis can be spread through a variety of ways, the most common being through contact with someone who has the virus, through contaminated food or water and through unwashed hands after using the washroom or changing a diaper.

To prevent the spread of infection individuals 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 (for persons with the illness clean the toilet after each episode of vomiting or diarrhoea), do not share towels, flannels, cutlery and utensils with other household members.

In 2013, there was an outbreak of the illness in the North West District, where a total of 529 residents from Port Kaituma and surrounding communities were infected, primarily children. There were three reported deaths.

The occurrence of gastroenteritis is seasonal, with the highest incidence occurring in December, January, February and March.