Officials warn of two infectious diseases

| 02/02/2010

Cayman Islands news, Grand Cayman health news(CNS): According the Public Health Department, there has been a substantial increase in the number of local gastroenteritis cases reported in the last month, which has prompted the department to issue an official statement on the situation. And according to a letter from Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler to staff in the Department of Education Services and parents of students, there has also been a confirmed case of hand, foot and mouth disease in a pre-schooler.

Talking about the increase in gastroenteritis, Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said that usually between 15 and 25 cases of the infection are reported to Health Services Authority facilities each week. “However, during the first three weeks in January there have been about 50-70 cases per week. Last week this number has risen to 122,” added Dr Kumar and officials are continuing to monitor the incidences

“Both children and adults are affected, and, based on the patients’ symptoms it appears to be the norovirus that is causing the current outbreak. In addition, in many cases we found that there have been vomiting alone,” Dr Kumar clarified.  Many Caribbean countries are experiencing gastroenteritis outbreaks, and the public doctor said stool samples will be sent to CAREC to identify the virus that is causing the local illnesses.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestine resulting in diarrhoea and vomiting; abdominal cramps; fever; and dehydration.  It is caused by a variety of viruses or bacteria, with the most common being the norovirus and rotavirus.

“Regardless of which virus is causing gastroenteritis, it is passed in stools, usually for one week. In addition, some viruses live in the respiratory secretions of infected children, and may thus enter the atmosphere. It is therefore important to practice good hygiene, especially when a child passes stools indiscriminately,” he explained. “Also, if disposable diapers are used, take extra care when disposing it. If left in open garbage containers, flies may transfer germs from the stools to food and other articles thereby spreading the disease further.”

In her letter regarding the hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) case, Wahler explained that the condition was not the same as foot and mouth disease in animals and it is a common viral illness in infants and children which causes fever and blister-like eruptions in the mouth and/or a skin rash.  The disease usually begins with a fever, poor appetite, malaise (feeling vaguely unwell), and often with a sore throat.

One or 2 days after fever onset, painful sores usually develop in the mouth on the tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks. A non-itchy skin rash develops over 1–2 days. HFMD is caused by viruses that belong to the enterovirus genus (group).

Infection is spread from person to person by direct contact with infectious virus. Infectious virus is found in the nose and throat secretions, saliva, blister fluid, and stool of infected persons. The virus is most often spread by persons with unwashed, virus-contaminated hands and by contact with virus-contaminated surfaces. Infected persons are most contagious during the first week of the illness.

Wahler told parents whose children might be infected to seek medical assistance and keep them from school.

To stem the outbreak of diarrhoeal disease, Kumar also advised parents to keep sick children out of schools/nurseries for at least one week after the symptoms began.

In all cases of infectious diseases the public should wash hands oftenl scrubbing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand cleaner especially after using the toilet, control flies by ensuring sanitary premises andsecuring garbage.

Drinking water must be safe; use desalinated, bottled or boiled water.

Disinfect cisterns by adding 2½ ounces of bleach for each 1,000 gallons of water in the cistern.

Soiled disposable diapers should be placed in a garbage bag and securely tied. The bag should then be placed into a securely covered container for collection.

Toilets should be disinfected after use by sick persons, so that others will not contract the illness.

Do not share towels, cups, or food with sick persons.

For more information, call the Public Health Department on 244-2632 or 244-2621, or Faith Hospital on 948-2243. For assistance with cisterns, call the Department of Environmental Health on 949-6696 in Grand Cayman or 948-2321 on the Brac.  

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  1. Sanjay says:

    This is far less troubling than the much more prevelant "foot in mouth" disease which has been a local epedemic for a number of years now.

  2. SUGA says:

    When the Health Services tell unna somthing unna listen there is an underlying factor that we do not know or have not been informed with.. I telling Unna wah I know…


    stop being IGNANT and wash twice

  3. Anonymous says:

    Officials warn of two infectious diseases:

    1. bitter Expats

    2. bitter Caymanians

    be very wary of these diseases as they are highly contagious and symptoms are often not seen at first glance. Extreme bouts of bitterness is a common symptom and prevalent amongst those infected. Do not entertain the bitterness. This will only allow a bitterness snowball effect.

    You have been warned.


    Not the Public Health Department


  4. Watering Hole says:

    Not surprized by this in the schools,  Thereis absolutely no hygene practised in them ,  Check it out.

    • Anonymous says:

       Judging my your grammar/spelling I am assuming you know firsthand…. what year/grade are you in?

  5. The nerve of these people says:

    Why do these people continue to spread fear! gosh… I’m really fed up with how our so called professionals handle these cases. This story is misleading and is trying to presuade us to WASH OUR HANDS! I too i’m all for proper hygine, but please don’t start a "panicorama"!…the nerve of these people! 

  6. A.L. says:

     I think the phrase "there has been a confirmed case of hand foot and mouth disease in a pre-schooler" is misleading.  This is a common childhood viral infection and, as all the pediatricians, pre-school teachers and half the parents here on the island know, it does the rounds a couple of times every year, with many young children being infected.  Although painful for about a week, it’s not a serious illness. I’m all for raising awareness of hygiene practices to prevent the spread (parents – please keep sick kids home!), but let’s not start a panic by implying that this is something new, unusual or dangerous.

    • slowpoke says:


      So, ignorance is bliss?  


      There was no "panic" comment, only a warning that the public should be aware.  


      That is the "JOB" of public health.