The Ministry of Health has advised the public to be on the alert for signs of gastroenteritis and to take precautions against the virus.

So far this year, there have been seven recorded cases of the illness – five females and two males, all over the age of 65, as compared to one person in that age group affected by the virus in 2010.

Gastroenteritis, generally known as "gastro" is recognised as an infection of the stomach lining. It is thought to be caused by a virus or bacteria. Although anyone can be affected by "gastro", children and the elderly are much more susceptible to the illness.

Persons are reminded to observe the following steps to protect themselves and their families against contracting gastroenteritis. Washing hands thoroughly with water for at least 20 seconds after using the toilet, after having diarrhea or vomiting, changing diapers, touching any stool or vomit soiled materials, toilets or surfaces; before handling food or drink, before eating and after cleaning up vomit or diarrhea from someone with gastroenteritis.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis include: nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, low fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, and tiredness. It is recommended that prompt medical attention be sought if severe vomiting and/or diarrhea are present.

Gastroenteritis can be prevented by thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces directly following an episode of illness using a bleach-based household cleaner. It is advised that food handlers, health care/child care services and children in child care with "gastro", should not work or attend child care until 48- hours after their symptoms have cleared.

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