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Gastro outbreak at Baramita kills one

Last Updated on Friday, 8 January 2016, 16:36 by Denis Chabrol

An outbreak of gastroenteritis in the North West District (NWD) community of Baramita has left one person dead and 60 others stricken.

The Ministry of Public Health says it is closely monitoring the indigenous community in Region One, after several cases of vomiting and diarrhea were detected in the area where residents are reluctant to use treated water and take the full course of medications.

The gastroenteritis like symptoms have landed 60 persons at the Baramita Health center since these were detected late last month. One person has since died from the illness, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported Friday.

Minister of Public Health, Dr George Norton said Thursday evening, in making the disclosure, said government would not be hiding information about the disease unlike the previous administration.

“We want to do it different. We want to be the first to let the media know that we are on top of the situation that has existed, not in Port Kaituma now, but in the village of Baramita,” Minister Norton said

Baramita, which has a population of about 3,000 persons at 20 satellite villages, has one Health Center, which is manned by a Community Health worker, a medic and a doctor.

According to Minister Norton, the situation is under control but at the same time the issue is of great concern to the Ministry, and a team of officials will be deployed to the area, to educate the residents about the illness and measures they can take to avoid it.

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive system. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites found in water, food and animals. It causes a combination of diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, and headache. Dehydration may occur as a result.

Minister Norton said that there are some challenges in terms of getting into some of the satellite villages that are only accessible by All Terrain vehicles.

“We do have it under control, we have enough medication there…The other situation is we find that the population is not cooperating. They don’t want to use the bleach in the water or the tablets that we’re using in the water because they said, it tastes bad. Secondly, they’re not carrying through with the medications we’re giving them to use and they are not all attending the clinics, even though the clinics are there, available for them. So we’re running into some difficulties there. But the situation has improved from what it was from the beginning,” Minister Norton explained.

The occurrence of gastro-enteritis is seasonal, with the highest incidence occurring during December to  March.

In 2013, there was an outbreak in the North West District area, where a total of 529 residents from Port Kaituma and surrounding communities were infected, most of whom were children. There were three reported deaths.  Prior to that, there was an outbreak in 2009 and six residents died.