The Ministry of Health and Wellness urges the public to take measures to prevent gastroenteritis (GE) and to seek care early to avoid serious complications.
This warning follows one suspected case of GE death, which is now under investigation.
GE causes irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines, resulting in diarrhoea (running belly) and vomiting. GE can cause death, especially in young children, because of dehydration (losing too much fluid). Both adults and children can contract GE through bacteria, viruses or parasites in contaminated or spoiled food, unclean water or dirty hands.
Symptoms of GE include diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and an upset stomach. The affected person may also experience headaches, fever, abdominal cramps, or stomach aches.
Meanwhile, data from the Ministry’s National Surveillance Unit shows that although weekly 2022 figures have been higher than the previous year, the case figures for the intestinal infection are not unusual. The Surveillance Unit reports that for 2022, it recorded an average visitation of 107 children under five years old to facilities across the island and 31 such visits in 2021.
The Ministry is urging caution as cases of GE will increase in the cooler months of the year. Parents and caregivers should pay close attention to their children.
Cautions for GE
The use of Medication to stop diarrhoea or vomiting is harmful. Instead, oral rehydration fluid (ORF) should replace the water and substances lost due to diarrhoea and vomiting. Children should ingest ORF until their condition improves, although the treatment will not stop or shorten the course of diarrhoea.
“If a child is breastfed, continue breastfeeding frequently. Other fluids, such as coconut water, diluted fruit juices, and plain water, can also be given. Do not give sweet drinks,” said Dr Webster-Kerr, Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
“If the symptoms do not improve, visit your health care provider,” the acting CMO added.