The Ministry of Health and Human Services is issuing a public health advisory regarding the increase in acute diarrheal illness reported in our neighboring countries.
The rise in cases is of concern, as we have close travel and trade relationships with these countries. As such, the Ministry of Health is committed to raising awareness and promoting preventive measures to curb the potential spread of these illnesses.
Acute diarrheal illness is a serious public health issue that can lead to severe complications if not addressed promptly. In light of the escalating cases in our neighboring countries, it is imperative that communities prioritize and implement essential preventive measures to safeguard public health.
Acute diarrheal illness, characterized by the sudden onset of loose stools, has various causes, including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. A number of factors contribute significantly to the spread of these infections. Such as:
· ingestion of contaminated water and food sources;
· poor sanitation;
· inadequate hygiene practices- such as poor hand hygiene;
· direct contact with an infected person; and
· touching contaminated surfaces or objects
Common causes of diarrheal illness include bacterial infections such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli), and viral infections such as Norovirus. These are frequently associated with outbreaks of acute diarrheal illnesses. Bacterial causes tend to spike in the warm season while viruses such as norovirus are more commonly seen in the drier cool months of winter.
The Ministry of Health and Human Services urges individuals, communities, and healthcare providers to focus on the following key aspects in order to prevent and control the spread of acute diarrheal illness:
1. Hand Hygiene Practices:
Promote regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet, before eating, before preparing food and after contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content can also be used when soap and water are not readily available.
2. Safe Water Practices:
Ensure access to clean and safe water sources. Communities should prioritize water purification methods and regularly check the quality of drinking water to prevent waterborne diseases associated with contaminated water.
3. Good Food Preparation:
Emphasize safe and hygienic food handling practices. This includes thorough cooking of food, proper storage to prevent contamination, and avoiding the consumption of raw or undercooked items. Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
4. Prevention Strategies:
· Keep your environment clean and surfaces disinfected with a bleach and water solution;
· Avoid sick persons;
· If caring for a sick person, keep them isolated, clean and disinfect contaminated areas and thoroughly wash soiled laundry.
Oral rehydration solutions can be used to prevent dehydration in cases of acute diarrheal illness. Individuals should however seek medical attention promptly if symptoms persist or worsen.
The Honourable Shaun Malcolm, Minister of Health and Human Services urges everyone: “To recognize that collaborative efforts are needed to address this public health concern. By adopting and promoting these preventive measures, communities can contribute to the overall well-being of the population”.
To stay informed and updated on the latest developments related to acute diarrheal illness, please visit the Health Promotion and Advocacy Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tcihealthpromotions/.