Gastro on the rise while dengue cases drop

Dengue fever cases continue to decline but the numbers are still above the outbreak threshold.

In its most recent update, the Ministry of Health and Wellness stated that since the outbreak began in October 2023, four deaths have been recorded. It added that a number of people were referred to hospital with warning signs and some were hospitalised with severe dengue. The predominant serotype identified has been type 2, followed by type 3.

Up to the week ending April 6, 2024, there were 2 915 clinically suspected, and 1 059 laboratory confirmed cases of dengue fever in Barbados. This compares to the same period in 2023, when there were only 158 suspected cases, and 105 confirmed cases.

The Ministry reported that the current outbreak peaked in January, this year, and continued to decline in March. Although lower than February, numbers are still above the outbreak threshold for March.

Health authorities have advised members of the public to implement measures to avoid contracting the illness, such as using repellent and wearing protective clothing; eliminating breeding sites by keeping their surroundings clean; and using protective window and door screens as well as mosquito nets, at home.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Health and Wellness disclosed that there has been an increase in gastroenteritis cases in the past two weeks, in persons five years and older. It stated that this may be due to more persons eating food which is prepared outside of the home. However, cases in children under five years old have not surpassed the threshold of the expected number during this time period.

“Persons choosing to purchase ready-prepared food are encouraged to check for cleanliness and tidiness of the establishment, including the presence of handwashing facilities if the vendor is itinerant or at a wayside stall. Patrons are reminded to wash or sanitise their hands prior to eating, after coughing or sneezing into tissues, and after using the toilet facilities,” the Ministry stated.

The public is reminded that hot foods are to be served hot, at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and cold foods should be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below. Additionally, cooked and uncooked foods should always be separated.

As for respiratory cases, reports indicate that there was an increase in cases in persons five years and older up to April 6, this year, but levels in children under five years old continue to be low from the beginning of the year.

Influenza and other cough and cold viruses not confirmed may be contributing to the increase. COVID-19 infections remain very low, with no deaths recorded within the last month.

Health authorities encouraged Barbadians to practise stringent respiratory hygiene with use of hand washing, hand sanitising and mask wearing by those with symptoms or those vulnerable to severe disease. (SAT/BGIS)

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