Apr 14, 2016 News
While a reoccurrence of an outbreak of gastroenteritis is not unlikely, deliberate efforts have been advanced
by the Ministry of Public Health to reduce this possibility. This state of affairs has been vocalised by both Ministers within the Public Health Ministry, Dr. George Norton and Dr. Karen Cummings.
Sporadic outbreaks of gastroenteritis in some hinterland sections of the country over the years have been deemed a challenge to the Ministry. It is, however, one that the Ministry has grown accustomed to.
An outbreak in Region One reported on earlier this year came as no surprise to the Public Health Ministry, said Minister Norton. In January the public health sector reported an outbreak which sickened scores of residents in Baramita, Region One.
Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines, typically resulting from bacterial toxins or viral infection causing vomiting and diarrhoea.
It can be caused by contact with someone with the virus, unwashed hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper or napkin and by using contaminated food or water.
Minister Norton in revealing that the outbreak has been linked to contaminated water said, “We know that over the years, usually at the start of some years, we have had gastroenteritis outbreaks. A few years ago we had a few deaths as a result but this time around we had doctors on the ground and medications including rehydration solutions and so on because we were looking out for it. So when it started out in Baramita we managed to control it from the initial stages.”
Prior to the outbreak reported earlier this year, the public health sector was faced with an outbreak in 2013. During that time more than 200 residents in various Region One communities became ill. At least three children died.
According to Minister Cummings, the most recent gastroenteritis outbreak was reported from Baramita and its surrounding settlements. Between December 3, 2015 and January 16, 2016, a total of 102 cases were documented by the Ministry.
However, by January 20, 2016 the cases had mounted to 122 based on data received from the Senior Environmental Officer in Region One, Minister Cummings informed. The Minister shared too that at least one death was linked to the outbreak. The reported death was that of an 11-month-old child on December 27, 2015 who manifested symptoms including malnutrition, diarrhoea and vomiting, consistent with gastroenteritis.
The outbreak was, as in the past, linked to the use of water from contaminated water sources. Minister Norton disclosed too that it had come to his attention that some persons had used water from contaminated waterways.
Moreover, as part of the Ministry’s response to the outbreak, Minister Cummings said that there were outreaches to Region One in early January during which sensitisations and demonstrations on water safety were done. The intended targets were residents of Baramita and 18 surrounding villages, according to Minister Cummings, who were exposed to basic hand washing techniques; proper garbage disposal, cleanliness of surroundings including bore holes and sewage holes and purification and treatment of water for domestic use.
During that period, too, the Ministry through its Environmental Health Unit distributed water purification tablets and bleach.
The Ministry’s efforts have been supported by the Red Cross which, according to Minister Cummings, has “from time to time visited the villages to educate and sensitize villagers on proper sanitary conditions.”
By January 13, 2016 water samples from wells at Barama Line, Golden City, Johnny Hotel and Central Baramita, all in Region One were tested by the Food and Drug laboratory. The quality was found to be satisfactory, according to Minister Cummings.
The results of the samples were shared with the Guyana Water Incorporated, the Minister related even as she revealed that at present Basic Needs Trust Fund is in the process of constructing another well in Central Baramita.
Minister Cummings, however, disclosed that while follow up visits to the Region One villages revealed that the majority of villagers are adhering to the use of purification tablets or chlorine and some had even erected ventilated pit latrines, the fact that there are some who are not adhering suggest that a repeat outbreak is not unlikely.
“The possibility exists because villagers are not 100 per cent compliant in maintaining hygienic standards, despite sensitization efforts, because of health behaviour and cultural practices,” Minister Cummings said.
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