Senior Medical Officer of Health – South, Dr Karen Springer, said last week that the Ministry of Health and its various stakeholders have remained vigilant to ensure that Barbados remained cholera free.
“The Ministry of Health has engaged stakeholders within the Ministry, the Sanitation Service Authority, Barbados Water Authority and the Environmental Protection Department, to ensure that prevention and control measures are in place. Steps have also been taken to ensure that medical staff is familiar with the symptoms and management of cholera and increased surveillance of travelers from Haiti at ports of entry have been in place since November 2010,” she said.
In terms of gastroenteritis, a condition that causes irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines (the gastrointestinal tract), Springer explained that levels of the illness were usually highest during the first 12 weeks of the year, with the majority of cases being recorded during the eighth and 12th week of the year.
“For the period January 2-29, 2011, there were 168 cases of gastroenteritis reported from sentinel public health sites in comparison with 114 cases in 2008, 185 cases in 2009 and 101 cases in 2010 for a similar period,” she said.
The public is reminded that hand washing is an essential part of personal hygiene and is essential in preventing the transmission of infection.
Persons are encouraged to continue proper hand hygiene habits before and after preparing food, after going to the toilet, as well as before and after eating. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, crampy abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
An epidemic cholera strain has been confirmed in Haiti, causing the first outbreak in that country for at least 100 years. Cholera is most commonly acquired from drinking water in which the organism Vibrio Cholera is naturally found or into which it has been introduced from the faeces of an infected person.
Other channels include contaminated fish and shellfish, produce, or leftover cooked grains that have not been properly reheated. Person-to-person transmission is rarely documented, even during epidemics.