Press Release

Ministry of Health & Social Development
Release Date:
Monday, 26 April 2021 - 5:49pm

Officials at the Ministry of Health and Social Development are alerting residents of an increase in the level of gastroenteritis also known as gastro in the British Virgin Islands.

The Public Health Unit and the Environmental Health Division are currently investigating the cause in order to limit the spread.

Gastro is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and small and large intestines. The condition is very contagious and can spread rapidly and easily from person to person. Gastroenteritis may be caused by viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms like parasites that can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated or undercooked food, drinking contaminated water, lack of hand hygiene or dirty hands, and airborne particles circulating in the air after vomiting,

Symptoms of gastroenteritis are varied and may include low fever, tiredness and general malaise; headaches, muscle aches and chills; nausea, vomiting and inability to take food orally in more severe cases; stomach pain/cramps; diarrhea (loose or watery stools); and sometimes with mucous (occasionally tinged with blood in severe cases).

Persons infected with gastro are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after recovery. The illness often begins suddenly, but is typically brief, with symptoms lasting one or two days.

Most persons recover on their own however, gastro can cause dehydration or a depletion of fluid in the body. This is a serious complication and may be especially dangerous in young children, elderly and persons with an underlying health problem such as diabetes, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease and kidney disease.

Persons who contract gastro can treat symptoms by drinking plenty of fluids,  including water and use oral rehydration salts (ORS), to prevent dehydration. 

Persons who work in food-handling, healthcare, or child care should not attend work while they are ill and should not return to work until 72 hours after symptoms stop.

If persons experience dehydration and symptoms lasts more than 72 hours or their symptoms worsen (e.g. blood in stool), this may be indicative of a more serious gastrointestinal infection and should contact their primary healthcare provider immediately. Most people improve in 24-48 hours with no long-term health conditions. Dehydration is usually little more than an inconvenience to an otherwise healthy adult but can be deadly for people who are very young, elderly or immune compromised. Affected persons may be contagious for as long as two weeks after recovery. Therefore, it is important to use good hand washing and cleaning practices.

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Note to Editors: See tips below.

Residents are reminded to decrease the chance of becoming infected with gastroenteritis or spreading the virus by following these preventive steps:

  1. Ensure food is fully cooked and correct cooking temperature is reached (esp. when using a microwave). Avoid eating raw or uncooked food.
  2. Eat food soon after cooking and reheat properly especially if left in the open for long periods of time.
  3. Food handlers should wash their hands with soap and water before and after food preparation.
  4. Properly wash your hands, especially after using the restroom, after changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
  5. If you are ill, stay home from work and school, especially if you work in food-handling, healthcare, or child care.
  6. Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a solution of 1/3 cup bleach per one gallon of water (50:1 dilution).
  7. Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).

Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet. Clean and disinfect the surrounding area.

Author

Adrianna J. Soverall

Information Officer
Department of Information and Public Relations
Telephone: 468-3701 ext. 2730
Email:    asoverall@gov.vg