GEORGETOWN: Less than 24 hours after Barbados declared an alert following an increase in gastroenteritis on the island last weekend, health authorities in Guyana say they are monitoring reports of an outbreak of the infection in the northwest region of the county. As of press time, the outbreak has resulted in the death of one person in the South American nation.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the lining of the digestive tract. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, low fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and tiredness.
“As we learned 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 surveillance information, which is collected on a weekly basis and reports indicate there have been increases in the infection from the second week of January, when 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.
Persaud said the samples indicate that the water was contaminated with E.coli, an organism that is usually expelled in faeces.
“As a matter of fact the results indicate…that the waters are severely contaminated,” said Persaud.
A government statement revealed that a second team visited the area last weekend.
“Once the source of the contamination has been identified efforts will focus on addressing that with support from the Regional Administration,” according to the statement. “The team has been encouraging steps such as boiling of water and using bleach in water for household purposes.”
Health authorities in Barbados said they have received reports of a number of severe cases, particularly among people over the age of 60. However, exact figures have not been released.