Health ministry taking anti-cholera precautions

KINGSTON, Jamaica: With a cholera outbreak in Haiti affecting close to 60,000 individuals and resulting in over 1,200 deaths, Jamaicans are being urged to take precautions to keep out the disease.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, is urging all citizens to continue to do their part in ensuring proper hygiene and sanitation, in ensuring that Jamaica is kept cholera free.

“They must wash their hands before they eat, after they use the bathroom, as frequently as possible; if you can’t wash it and you have sanitizer, use the sanitizer, because if your hands are contaminated and you touch fruits, vegetables, or eat, you will become exposed to the disease,” she advised.

Other ways of preventing cholera include ensuring that water is treated before drinking, washing fruits and vegetables before consumption and using treated water in preparing food and making ice.

Dr. Campbell-Forrester is also encouraging individuals to treat water properly before consumption, for example by boiling the water.

“You don’t just let it boil and take it off; you leave it for five minutes, until most of the bacteria would have been killed,” she said.

The use of bleach is another measure that can be used.

Campbell-Forrester stated that despite not having any confirmation of cholera in Jamaica, the health sector continues to take appropriate precautions to ensure that they are in a position to respond decisively to any eventuality.

She said that children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to diseases. To this end, the Ministry of Health is advising that special precautions be taken to protect them, as well as those living with HIV/AIDS and cancer.

Other tips to help prevent cholera are practicing good hygiene and keeping your surroundings clean; keeping garbage covered; keeping foods covered and safe from flies; washing all fruits and vegetables in treated water before eating them; using a toilet to dispose of feces and urine; and not allowing body waste to seep into streams, rivers or water sources.

About 75 per cent of people infected with vibrio cholera do not develop symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their feces for seven to 14 days after infection, and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting others. Among people who develop symptoms, 80 per cent have mild or moderate symptoms, while around 20 per cent develop acute watery diarrhea, with severe dehydration.

Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours, but up to 80 per cent of cases can be successfully treated with oral rehydration salts. Effective control measures rely on prevention, preparedness and response. (JIS)

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