The Ministry of Health has issued a Gastroenteritis alert for Saint Lucia, noting that there has been an increase in reported cases of the condition.
Medical Officer of Health, Doctor Sharon Belmar-George, has said that during the month of December, 2016, customary increases associated with that time of the year were observed.
However, she disclosed that above average levels were reported in all of the health regions into the third week of January, 2017.
Doctor Belmar-George said the cases are noted mainly in children under five years of age.
She had advised parents of children who have symptoms of gastroenteritis to keep the youngsters at home until the symptoms have subsided.
Common signs and symptoms of persons with gastroenteritis include; belly-ache, cramps, nausea, headache, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting.
In some cases individuals may experience several bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea in the course of the condition.
The Ministry of Health has said that one of the principal and sometimes overlooked ways in which contamination and infection occurs is via poor sanitation and hygiene practices.
According to the ministry, some of these overlooked practices and habits are: unwashed hands, poor preparation, handling and storage of food and water.
Persons with gastroenteritis have been advised to increase fluid intake and reduce intake of oily or fried foods.
In addition, the Ministry of Health has said that preventative measures including washing frequently with soap and flowing clean water especially after using the toilet, changing diapers and handling garbage, should be adopted.
The ministry is also urging citizens to wash and clean all surfaces on which food will be handled, promptly refrigerate left over food and ensure that persons with open wounds or sores do not handle food.
“Be vigilant in knowing who, where, when and how food offered for purchase or public consumption is prepared and handled to avoid getting sick,” a ministry advisory said.
It observed that children can get dehydrated quickly.
“If your child has the stomach flu, it’s important that you look for signs that he is very thirsty or has dry skin or a dry mouth. If you have a baby, look for fewer, drier diapers,” the ministry stated.
According to the advisory, medical assistance should be sought immediately if someone is confused, unresponsive, weak, the fever does not go down, there is an inability to keep down any fluids, little or no urine, there is blood in the stools, or if the person has a serious underlying condition such as kidney disease.