Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
The Ministry of Health and Social Development has reported that several cases of gastroenteritis have come to the attention of the Ministry and is urging residents to practice good personal hygiene to safeguard their health.
Viral gastroenteritis is a common infection of the stomach and intestines that results in vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be caused by a number of different viruses, such as rotavirus and norovirus. There are many other causes of gastroenteritis including bacteria, toxins, parasites, and some non-infectious diseases.
Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ronald Georges said that gastroenteritis and other upper respiratory infections are common during this time of year and that there should be an increase in hand washing and general hygiene practices.
Dr. Georges said, “We need all schools and school administrators to be hygiene conscious. Especially in pre-schools and day-care centres, toys and surfaces should be disinfected often. Feeding and eating utensils, wash rags, towels and blankets should not be shared from one child to another.”
Dr. Georges stated that food may be contaminated by food preparers or handlers who have viral gastroenteritis, especially if they do not wash their hands regularly after using the bathroom. He said individuals may also become infected by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages, and that is it is equally important to ensure that proper and frequent hand washing is carried out by food handlers.
Dr. Georges added, “An increase in these viruses is normal during this time of year. We are just encouraging persons to manage their hygiene and wash their hands frequently to reduce the chances of passing or catching the disease. We also want to remind infected persons to remain at home until the symptoms are gone to prevent infecting others at work, school and day-care.”
Viral gastroenteritis is highly infectious and is spread by the vomit or faeces of an infected person through person-to-person contact, such as shaking hands with someone who has been sick and has the virus on their hands, contaminated objects, contaminated food or drink.
Persons can reduce their chances of becoming infected by frequent hand washing, prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners and prompt washing of soiled articles of clothing.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.