Gastrointestinal Illness On The Rise

Gastrointestinal illness continues to increase, and health officials have identified a new virus cause among lab samples – rotavirus.

This rise in cases, in adults and children, has been seen since late April until present.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness reported that for the diarrhoeal samples tested, three samples from late May and early June showed the presence of rotavirus, in addition to the bacterial foodborne pathogens that have been previously identified.  Rotavirus is a very contagious agent spread by contact with objects or persons contaminated with infected stool.

Vomiting was a prominent symptom for many persons, according to health authorities.

As a result, members of the public are being urged to employ proper hand hygiene methods, such as washing their hands regularly, especially before eating, and to continue to be cautious when purchasing ready-to-eat food items. 

The uptick in cases in persons older than five years moved from 34 at the end of April, to 76 cases in the week ending May 11, 2024.

Since then, weekly numbers have been falling, most recently to 46 cases in the week ending June 15, 2024, but are still above the alert threshold.  At this time of the year, the alert level for this age group is fewer than eight cases.

In children under five years old, the number of cases has moved from eight for the week ending April 27, to peaking at 27 cases in the week ending May 18, 2024.

Persons are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them with disposable tissue, especially after changing nappies, using the toilet, or before eating.  If soap and water are not available, the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is recommended.

Those who purchase items to eat should ensure that sellers conduct appropriate food handling practices, such as protecting food from flies and other vectors; using suitable utensils to touch food; and maintaining hot or cold items at the correct temperatures.  Hot foods must be kept above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and cold foods at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Health officials further advise that people keep unwashed hands away from the eyes, nose, and mouth, and to generally avoid touching these areas as germs can enter the body this way.