Press Release

Ministry of Health & Social Development
Release Date:
Friday, 15 November 2019 - 3:35pm

Officials at the Ministry of Health and Social Development are urging parents of small children to pay attention for signs of Gastroenteritis (gastro).

This alert is due to an increase in reports from local medical facilities in the Virgin Islands.

Gastroenteritis is a condition that causes irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This is typically caused by a bacteria, virus or parasite in spoiled/contaminated food, unclean water or dirty/unwashed hands. If untreated, gastroenteritis can cause death in young children less than five (5) years old.

Symptoms of this illness include one or more of the following: diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach upset. The affected person may also have headache, fever, and abdominal cramps (stomachaches). Diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration especially in small children.

Residents are urged to watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry skin and a dry mouth, feeling lightheaded, and being really thirsty.

Should you or your child exhibit signs or symptoms of gastroenteritis, contact your family physician.

Treatment usually depends on the cause but may include antibiotics (if bacteria are the source), plenty of fluids and glucose-electrolyte solutions, like Oral Rehydration Fluid (ORF) to replace the water and electrolytes lost as a result of vomiting or diarrhea.

Gastroenteritis is easily spread. However, there are several steps you can take to lower your risk of getting gastro and spreading it to others:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom and before food preparation. If necessary, use hand sanitiser until you can access soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect kitchen surfaces, especially when working with raw meat or eggs.
  • Do not share kitchen utensils, plates, or towels if a member of the household is sick.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked foods and keep raw meat, eggs and poultry away from foods eaten raw.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

Persons who suspect they have gastroenteritis are encouraged to stay home from work and keep sick children home from school or childcare for at least 48 hours after the last symptom of gastroenteritis. For more information or to alert us of possible cases please contact the Ministry of Health at 468-2274.

The Ministry of Health and Social Development aspires to provide a caring and integrated system of health and social services that facilitates the recovery of human development and quality of life in the British Virgin Islands.


Adrianna J. Soverall

Ag. Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health and Social Development
Telephone: 468-3701 ext. 852 7742