Ministry Of Health: Increase In Gastrointestinal Illnesses

Health officials have noticed an increase in the cases of gastrointestinal illnesses in Barbados.

As a result, they are urging members of the public to employ proper hand hygiene methods, such as washing their hands regularly and to vet food handlers before purchasing food from them.

The uptick in cases in persons older than five years moved from 27 in the week prior to April 27, to 34 cases at the end of that week. Previously, there were only 11 cases recorded.  The alert level for this age group, at this time of the year, is less than six cases.

In children under five years old, the number of cases has moved from two to eight, for the week ending April 27.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness reported that for the subset of cases tested, foodborne pathogens had been identified (bacterial and viral) but no single source or event had been linked to the majority of cases.

The public is therefore urged to practise good hand hygiene which is the most effective way of reducing the transmission of many bacterial and viral illnesses.

This includes washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them with disposable tissue.  If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is recommended.

Persons purchasing 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.

A moderate increase in respiratory illnesses has also been noted in persons over five years old, during the week ending April 27.

Health officials have advised 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.