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.

1 dead, 60 sick: Gastro outbreak in Guyana

Kaieteur News reports that at least one person has died and 60 sick suffering from symptoms consistent with gastroenteritis. This is according to information filtered to the Ministry of Public Health to the Government Informationgastro Agency (GINA), which suggests that at least 60 individuals have sought care at the Baramita Health Centre manifesting symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Dr-George-Norton-310x165It was in fact mounting cases of vomiting and diarrhoea that caused the Ministry to commence a close monitoring process of the indigenous locale.

The Region One area had an outbreak of gastro-enteritis infection in the past resulting in the deaths of a few children.

Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, on Thursday evening recalled, “Some years ago, right in Parliament here, Mr. (David) Granger moved a motion for an investigation on the Commission of Inquiry into deaths in the North West district, particularly the Port Kaituma area, of children dying of gastro-enteritis. For some reason or the other there (has) been a closing off of the media, in terms of providing the public with information about that situation.

“We want to do it differently. We want to be the first to let the media know that we are on top of the situation that has existed, not in Port Kaituma now, but in the village of Baramita,” Minister Norton said.

Baramita, which has a population of about 3,000 and 20 satellite villages, has one Health Center, which is manned by a Community Health Worker, a Medic and a Doctor.

But, according to Minister Norton, the situation is under control. He however noted that the issue is of great concern to the Ministry, and therefore a team of officials will be deployed to the area to educate the residents about the illness and measures they can take to avoid it.

But there are some challenges in accessing some of the satellite villages, Minister Norton has admitted since these areas are only accessible by All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).

Minister Norton also said that another challenge in addressing the outbreak has been found to be that “the population is not cooperating.”

“They don’t want to use the bleach in the water or the tablets that we’re using in the water because they said it tastes bad. Secondly, they’re not carrying through with the medications we’re giving them to use, and they are not all attending the clinics even though the clinics are there, available for them. So we’re running into some difficulties there. But the situation has improved from what it was from the beginning,” Minister Norton explained.

In 2013, there was an outbreak in the North West District area, where a total of 529 residents from Port Kaituma and surrounding communities were infected, most of whom were children. There were three reported deaths.  Prior to that, there was an outbreak in 2009 and six residents died.

Food poisoning strikes 100 at policing meet in Guyana

Health officials in Berbice, Guyana (that’s on the northern coast of South America) told Stabroek News last night that approximately 100 people attending a police retreat were treated at the New Amsterdam Hospital shortly after lunch was served.

Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, who was present at the event yesterday, told this newspaper last evening that the police were investigating the incident and several persons were questioned.

According to reports, sometime around 1 pm yesterday lunch, which consisted of fried rice and pot roast chicken, was served and shortly after, persons began to complain of abdominal pains while some began to vomit.

Persons at the New Amsterdam Hospital told Stabroek News that the hospital was filled with patients seeking treatment, many persons lay on the floors at the hospital crying out in pain. It was noted that residents in the area had already departed the venue for their homes when they began to experience pains about their bodies.