The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment says it has noted an increase in the number of persons in St. Vincent and the () reporting symptoms suggestive of viral gastroenteritis.

The ministry further said there has been one confirmed case of the dengue fever over the past six week, while the number of persons presenting with fever and respiratory symptoms, typical of the flu, remain within normal levels for the period under review.

Gastroenteritis is a condition characterised by the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It can be caused by infection with bacteria, parasites or viruses, such as norovirus, rotavirus, sapovirus or astrovirus.

Symptoms usually appear 12 to 48 hours following infection and generally last for one to three days. Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramping.

Other symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle ache and fatigue.

To decrease your chances of contracting or spreading this virus, it is important to practice good hand-washing and other hygienic practices, the ministry said.

“Frequently wash your hand with soap and running water especially after using the restroom, changing diapers, before eating and before preparing food. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. If unwell, do not prepare food for others,” the ministry advised.

It further said that persons who are ill should stay at home from work and , especially if they work in food handling, healthcare or childcare.

Surfaces contaminated by diarrhoea or vomit should be cleaned and disinfected (by using one part 5.25% bleach to nine parts water), immediately.

Regarding dengue fever, the ministry said it continues to monitor vector activity and vector control measures remain in effect.

Visitors and residents are reminded to protect themselves from mosquito bites and avoid creating conditions for mosquito breeding.

Regarding the flu the ministry is reminding the public to practice hand hygiene and cough etiquette in order to minimise the spread of viral illnesses.

“While Influenza A H1N1 is endemic to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, no confirmed cases have been reported during the last six weeks. Even though, the flu vaccine is not available within the public health care sector, it is available in the private sector,” the ministry said.

Persons requiring additional information are asked to contact their nearest health care facility or physician.