Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
Residents are asked to safeguard their health and protect themselves from food and waterborne illnesses by practicing good personal hygiene.
Environmental Health Officer, Ms. Tianna Frazer said that as a result of current conditions being experienced Territory-wide due to the impact of Hurricane Irma, food and water borne illnesses could arise. “We are really concerned about gastroenteritis,” she said.
Ms. Frazer said the lack of running water and proper food storage capacity is increasing the risk of gastroenteritis. “Persons are also cooking with contaminated cistern water which can also pose a problem,” she said adding, “We want to encourage persons especially those who are working with food to maintain proper hand washing hygiene and to ensure that food is being prepared with clean potable water.”
Viral gastroenteritis is a common infection of the stomach and intestines that results in vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be caused by a number of different viruses, such as rotavirus and norovirus. There are many other causes of gastroenteritis including bacteria, toxins, parasites, and some non-infectious diseases.
Persons preparing and handling food are asked to practice proper hygiene including frequent washing of hands as food may be contaminated if these persons are affected by the virus.
Individuals may also become infected by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages.
Ms. Frazer explained that viral gastroenteritis is highly infectious and is spread by the vomit or faeces of an infected person through person-to-person contact, such as shaking hands with someone who has been sick and has the virus on their hands, contaminated objects, contaminated food or drink.
She said, “As schools and day-care centres across the Territory continue to re-open, all schools and school administrators are encouraged to be hygiene conscious. Toys and surfaces should be disinfected often, and feeding/eating utensils, wash rags, towels and blankets should not be shared from one child to another.”
Persons can reduce their chances of becoming infected by prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners and prompt washing of soiled articles of clothing.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.