Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 23, 2023 (Ministry of Health) -- Over the past several weeks, several children and adults have been diagnosed with and treated for gastroenteritis (GE) in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Gastroenteritis is a medical condition marked by irritation or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, in particular the stomach and small intestines. This condition can affect anyone – be it a child or an adult.
Gastroenteritis is typically caused by a germ or pathogen. The most common cause is a virus, but it can also be triggered by bacteria.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of GE include sudden onset of diarrhoea with three or more loose or watery stools in a day. These symptoms can occur with or without abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and fever.
Dehydration can result, if there is continued loss of body fluids/water through vomiting and diarrhoea leading to excess fluid loss compared to intake (drinking). Dehydration is marked by increased thirst, dry mouth, weakness, sluggishness, dizziness, inability to sweat, decreased urine output and sometimes fainting.
Please note that children who are affected by GE can become dehydrated quickly. Parents are advised to monitor affected children very closely and seek medical care urgently:
• If your child is under the age of 2 years, regardless of the symptoms.
• If your child is older than 2 years and has one of the following symptoms:
- persistent or worsening abdominal pain
- fever lasting for more than 48 hours
- frequent vomiting for 4 to 6 hours despite administering small amounts of fluids.
- frequent and abundant diarrhea lasting for more than 7 days
- frequent diarrhea if the child is under 6 months
- worsening of child’s general health
You should take your child straight to emergency if they have one of the following symptoms:
• has refused to drink for more than 4 to 6 hours
• moderate to severe signs of dehydration
• signs of mental confusion, dizziness, or headache
• blood in the vomit or stool
• black stools
• vomit is bright green
• your child has a chronic disease, a weakened immune system or an immunodeficiency disorder AND has a temperature higher than 38.5 °C (101.3 °F)
Adults should go straight to emergency if one of the following situations applies:
• A lot of blood in your stool, or your stool is black
• Diarrhea with intense abdominal pain
• Diarrhea with extreme thirst and no urination in over 12 hours
• Frequent vomiting which does not slow down after 4 to 6 hours
• Stool or blood (red in colour or resembling coffee grounds) in vomit
• Deterioration of general health (weakness, drowsiness, irritability, confusion)
How is Gastroenteritis Spread?
An infected person can transmit the illness as long they have symptoms and up to 2 weeks after they have disappeared.
Gastroenteritis spreads when a person comes in contact with the vomit or faeces of an infected person, including:
• Person-to-person contact (eg. shaking hands with someone who has been sick and has the virus on their hands)
• Contaminated objects (eg. door handles, toys, utensils etc.)
• Contaminated food or drink
Prevention of Gastroenteritis
The following steps will help reduce your chances of contracting gastroenteritis. You must:
• Avoid contaminated water and ice cubes; there is no harm in boiling tap water before use (make sure it is cooled prior to drinking).
• Wash fruits & vegetables thoroughly.
• Not eat raw or undercooked foods (meats).
• Avoid contaminated food (especially when travelling abroad).
• Wash your hands often with soap and water (use alcohol-based hand sanitizer until you can access soap & water).
The following steps will help to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis to others. You must:
• Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing a child’s diaper.
• Wash your hands before, during and after preparing food.
• Wash your hands before eating.
• Ensure that towels are not shared; likewise, kitchen utensils, cups, glasses and plates should not be shared if someone in the household is affected by gastroenteritis.
• Keep your child at home if she/he has gastroenteritis, in order to prevent its spread in schools.
• Remain at home if you are an adult with gastroenteritis, in order to prevent its spread at the workplace.
Treatment is usually supportive and aimed at avoiding dehydration. Patients are encouraged to drink plenty of fluids and can take paracetamol if there is fever and/or aches and pains.
The Ministry of Health is committed to improving the health of the people of Saint Kitts and Nevis and wishes to thank the public for its continued support. Necessary measures will continue to be established to monitor and address any increase in cases of gastroenteritis.
For more information, please contact the Ministry of Health at 465 2521 or email email@example.com
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