We all know about "the stomach bug" - that combination of vomiting and diarrhea that always seems to be going around. Well, right now that is truer than ever. Statistics from the Ministry of Health - updated as recently as yesterday show that reported cases of gastro-enteritis peaked in the Cayo and Belize districts about two weeks ago - and that there have been 800 cases reported in the past few months. That may sound like a lot but it's actually on average for this time of year when reports of gastro-enteritis usually spikes. Epidemiologist Dr. Aisha Andrewin explained:
Dr. Aisha Andrewin - Epidemiologist, Ministry Of Health
"What we are seeing, is what we're referring to a seasonal increasing in cases of what is locally termed as stomach flu. Basically, it's gastroenteritis, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal pains due to a virus in most cases. That's the pattern we're seeing. We say seasonal because they're different points in the year when you'd expect it, and we see these increases from time to time. In this current instance, we started seeing an upward case about the beginning of this month, and we will continue to see these patterns. This is happening globally. The main culprit nowadays is the virus called Nora Virus. In fact, in the U.K, it's called the winter vomiting bug. In the States for example, you'd get 20 million per year, and in these part of the world we're seeing more and more of these cases as we had the capacity confirm the cases. Little children will be a particular difficult group to control this thing in because kids tend to touch everything. You typically will hear of these cases in this age group, the under 5's and so on, and that's in fact what we are seeing in terms of the numbers, although we have more adults coming to our facilities at this moment. When you actually look at something you call rates, you are seeing that the kids are more affected, and this is also expected. These cases of viro - gastroenteritis is what we call self-limiting, that the diseases will run its course, but the most important thing to tell the parents to look for signs of serious illness in their children. Usually a mild illness, in terms of not few hospitalizations, very few deaths and so on, but the most important thing to tell parents is, if the child has serious warning signs, you need to go to a health facility and let them take care of it, especially if kids a vomiting excessively, can't keep any fluid down, they're howing signs of lethargy and so on. And another thing; when they're - with every episode of diarrhea, you want to have your ORS, and you want to have you pedialite, and so on but any concern parent, you take your child to the health facility."
"What are the principle means of transmission?"
Dr. Aisha Andrewin
"It's the usual fecal, oral route, meaning a contaminated person feces, vomitus and so on, person to person. This person might touch something or even cough into the air. The virus can be transmitted that way; it's highly contagious, and those are the principal means. When you touch a surface, this virus can unfortunately live outside for a number of hours on a hard surface; they say even up to 12 days on contaminated surfaces. The message remains the same about hand washing, good hygiene, washing hands before meals, after meals, after using the toilet, and trying to avoid the infected persons as much as possible."
Fewer than 5% of reported cases have ended up in hospitalization.
The Ministry of Health is sending samples to CARFA to confirm that the reports are being caused by the Noravirus.
Again, among the things you can do to stop the spread of the virus, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. Do not share towels, carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook food thoroughly before eating.