Public Service Announcement from the desk of the Chief Medical Officer of Health: Steps to prevent Gastroenteritis (GE)

Dr.Hazel Laws

Gastroenteritis (GE) is a medical condition marked by irritation or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, in particular the stomach and small intestines. Gastroenteritis can affect anyone – be it a child or an adult.
Gastroenteritis is typically caused by a germ or pathogen. The most common cause is a virus but it can also be triggered by a bacteria. Signs and symptoms of Gastroenteritis include sudden onset of diarrhoea with three or more loose or watery stools in the past 24 hours, with or without abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea and fever.
Continued loss of body fluids /water through vomiting and diarrhoea can result in dehydration. Dehydration is a condition that occurs when loss of body fluids exceed the amount taken in through drinking. Dehydration is marked by: increased thirst, dry mouth, weakness, sluggishness, dizziness, inability to sweat, decreased urine output and sometimes fainting. Please note that children who are affected (by GE) can become dehydrated quickly. Parents are advised to monitor affected children very closely and seek medical care, such as a gastroenterology specialist, urgently.

Prevention of Gastroenteritis
The following steps will help reduce your chances of contracting gastroenteritis. You must:
-Avoid ice cubes and contaminated water; there is no harm in boiling tap water before use (make sure it is cooled prior to drinking);
-Wash fruits & vegetables thoroughly;
-Not eat raw or undercooked foods (meats);
-Avoid contaminated food (especially when travelling abroad);
-Wash your hands often (use hand sanitizer until you can access soap & water);

The following steps will help to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis to others. You must:
-Wash your hands often, especially after using the bathroom;
-Wash your hands before preparing food;
-Ensure that towels are not shared; likewise, kitchen utensils, cups, glasses and plates should not be shared if someone in the household is affected by gastroenteritis;
-Keep your child at home if she/ he has gastroenteritis, in order to prevent its spread in schools;
-Remain at home if you are an adult with gastroenteritis, in order to prevent its spread at the work place

Your health is in your hands. Take action to prevent gastroenteritis!

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