Gastroenteritis alert; one suspected death under investigation – MOHW Loop Jamaica

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The Ministry of Health and Wellness urges the public to take measures to prevent gastroenteritis (GE) and to seek care early to avoid serious complications.

“This follows one suspected case of GE death, which is now being investigated. GE causes irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines, resulting in diarrhoea (running belly) and/or vomitting,” a release from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), said.

Both adults and children can contract GE through bacteria, viruses or parasites in contaminated or spoiled food, unclean water or dirty hands. GE can cause death, especially in young children because of dehydration (losing too much fluid).

Symptoms of GE include diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and an upset stomach. The affected person may also experience headaches, fever and abdominal cramps or stomach aches.

Meanwhile, data from the Ministry’s National Surveillance Unit shows that although weekly 2022 figures have been higher than the previous year, the case figures for the intestinal infection are not unusual.

The Surveillance Unit reports that for 2022, it recorded an average visitation of 107 children under 5 years old to facilities across the island and 31 such visits in 2021.

The Ministry is urging caution as cases of GE are expected to increase in the cooler months of the year. Parents and caregivers are especially advised to pay attention to their children.

“Medication should not be used to stop diarrhoea or vomiting. Instead, oral rehydration fluid (ORF) should be used to replace the water and special substances that are lost as a result of diarrhoea and/or vomiting,” the MOHW said.

Children should ingest ORF until their condition improves although the treatment will not stop or

shorten the course of diarrhoea.

“If a child is breastfed, continue breastfeeding frequently. Other fluids, such as coconut water, diluted fruit juices, as well as plain water, can also be given. Do not give sweet drinks,” said Dr. Webster-Kerr, Acting Chief Medical Officer(CMO).

“If the symptoms do not improve, visit your health care provider,” the acting CMO