Blame consumers, Guyana edition: Health ministry says gastro outbreaks possible because of unhygienic practices

While a reoccurrence of an outbreak of gastroenteritis is not unlikely, deliberate efforts have been advanced by the Ministry of Public Health to reduce this possibility. This state of affairs has been vocalised by both Ministers within the Public Health Ministry, Dr. George Norton and Dr. Karen Cummings.



Sporadic outbreaks of gastroenteritis in some hinterland sections of the country over the years have been deemed a challenge to the Ministry. It is, however, one that the Ministry has grown accustomed to.

Nothing speaks government action like, “we’re accustomed to this.”

An outbreak in Region One reported on earlier this year came as no surprise to the Public Health Ministry, said Minister Norton. In January the public health sector reported an outbreak which sickened scores of residents in Baramita, Region One.

Minister Norton in revealing that the outbreak has been linked to contaminated water said, “We know that over the years, usually at the start of some years, we have had gastroenteritis outbreaks. A few years ago we had a few deaths as a result but this time around we had doctors on the ground and medications including rehydration solutions and so on because we were looking out for it. So when it started out in Baramita we managed to control it from the initial stages.”

Prior to the outbreak reported earlier this year, the public health sector was faced with an outbreak in 2013. During that time more than 200 residents in various Region One communities became ill. At least three children died.

According to Minister Cummings, the most recent gastroenteritis outbreak was reported from Baramita and its surrounding settlements. Between December 3, 2015 and January 16, 2016, a total of 102 cases were documented by the Ministry.

However, by January 20, 2016 the cases had mounted to 122 based on data received from the Senior Environmental Officer in Region One, Minister Cummings informed. The Minister shared too that at least one death was linked to the outbreak. The reported death was that of an 11-month-old child on December 27, 2015 who manifested symptoms including malnutrition, diarrhoea and vomiting, consistent with gastroenteritis.

Minister Cummings disclosed that while follow up visits to the Region One villages revealed that the majority of villagers are adhering to the use of purification tablets or chlorine and some had even erected ventilated pit latrines, the fact that there are some who are not adhering suggest that a repeat outbreak is not unlikely.

“The possibility exists because villagers are not 100 per cent compliant in maintaining hygienic standards, despite sensitization efforts, because of health behaviour and cultural practices,” Minister Cummings said.