Increase in gastrointestinal illnesses

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recorded an increase in cases of gastrointestinal illnesses in Barbados in both the private and public sectors from the end of January 2023 to present.

The number of cases has so far reached 312 over the last 13 weeks, which is greater than the 42 recorded over the corresponding period in 2022.  It was also reported that there were 19 cases at the end of January and 47 at the end of March.

Although children under five have also been affected, the majority of cases has occurred in people over five years of age.  For the subset of cases tested, foodborne pathogens have been identified (bacterial and viral) but no single source or event has been linked to the majority of cases.  No corresponding increase in respiratory illness has been noted over the period.

Barbadians are being encouraged to practise good hand hygiene as this is the most effective way of reducing the transmission of many bacterial and viral illnesses.

These practices include washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them with disposable tissue.  If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is recommended.

Health officials also advise that people keep unwashed hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth, and to generally avoid touching these areas as germs can enter the body this way.

People purchasing items to eat, should ensure that vendors conduct appropriate food handling practices, such as protecting food from flies and other vectors; using suitable utensils to serve food, and maintaining hot or cold items at the correct temperatures. (MHW)

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