Gastroenteritis outbreak in Guyana, Barbados on alert

“As we learnt a few days ago reports started to emerge of groups of people falling ill and certain actions undertaken…even the most well-oiled and efficiently functioning response, as has been mounted by the Ministry of Health, will need time to come to final conclusions but notwithstanding that certain concrete public health interventions have already been taken even before the media became aware of the situation,” said Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran.

He said that Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud has been instructed to look into the matter and that certain public health interventions have already been implemented in keeping with standard operational procedures.

Dr. Persaud said that the reported cases are being observed through the surveillance information which is collected on a weekly basis and the reports indicate there have been increases from since the second week of January where at least one child died due to severe dehydration.

He said a post mortem was done and some samples taken both from the patient and water supply including the river and wells in the area.

Dr. Persaud said the samples indicate that the water was contaminated with “E.coli which is an organism that is usually expelled in faeces.

“As a matter of fact the results coming out of Food and Drugs indicate …that the waters are severely contaminated,” he added.

A Government statement said that a second team visited the area last weekend and “once the source of the contamination has been identified efforts will focus on addressing that with support from the Regional Administration.

“The team has been encouraging steps such as boiling of water and using bleach in water for house hold purposes. Subsequently, a second child presented with severe dehydration also succumbed, however the investigation of the samples are still being conducted to determine what strain of bacteria is causing the illness.  Other people in the community have also reported cases of diarrhoea.”

Dr. Persaud said there is some concern about the strain of the organism since about two years ago there was a similar outbreak and it was identified to be a pathogenic type of E.coli that however is not cholera like organism.

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the lining of the digestive tract with symptoms that include nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, low fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and tiredness.

“The most serious complication is dehydration or a depletion of fluid in the body.  This may be especially dangerous in young children, elderly persons and those with an underlying health problem such as diabetes, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease and kidney disease,” the statement issued by the Barbados Ministry of Health added.

Reprinted from Caribbean360

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