By Earl Moxam, Staff Reporter
THE WESTERN Regional Health Authority (WRHA) has detected 607 new gatroenteritis cases in St. James alone over the past two days, and has placed health care facilities on alert to the outbreak.
The health authority says it is maintaining a close watch on the parish, whose gastro cases have now climbed to 642, of which a majority 432 relate to children under five years old.
The health agency said, however, that some of the cases seen in St. James originated in Hanover, which has reported 119 cases over the period January 4 to 31. Of that number, 62 are children under five years old.
The Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday that two babies have died in St. James, bringing the reported deaths islandwide to five.
"Since Monday two deaths have occurred. One child arrived dead and the other died while undergoing treatment. There is a third case involving a man but 'gastro' has not been determined as the cause of death," said Dr. Janice Alexander, regional epidemiologist.
Last December, the Health Ministry had detected increased gastro cases, especially in the parishes of Portland, St. Ann, Clarendon and Manchester. and reported three deaths in Portland, Westmoreland and St. Ann.
The St. James communities of Flanker, Lilliput, Salt Spring, and Mt. Salem seem to be showing increased numbers of cases, but Dr. Alexander also said the outbreak had spread right across the parish.
She added that a significant number of cases also seem to be stemming form eastern Hanover and Trelawny.
Dr. Alexander is also quoted by the Government's news agency as saying the cause of the outbreak in children appears to be the Rotavirus, having got 13 positive hits from 28 samples tested between January 28 and February 2.
Up to Monday, Cornwall Regional Hospital, the main medical facility serving western Jamaica parishes, had seen 520 cases.
Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines, resulting in vomiting and frequent diarrhoea. The prevention of dehydration is key to its treatment.