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Gastroenteritis: Experts canvass potable water, personal hygiene

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Open Defecation

Recently, cases of gastroenteritis were reported in some local government areas of Lagos State, which claimed many lives.

To prevent a reoccurrence, health experts have advised residents of the affected communities and the state generally to maintain personal hygiene, as the disease is caused by lack of access to safe water, food, and contact with persons that died of gastroenteritis, which are the pre-disposing factors to contacting the infection.

Dr. Modupe Akinyinka, a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Public Health Physician at the department of Community Health and Primary Health Care Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), emphasised the need for citizens to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, cook food thoroughly, dispose waste materials properly, avoid open and indiscriminate defecation, keep water containers clean, keep cooking surfaces clean, separate raw and cooked foods, keep food at safe temperatures, as well as use safe water and raw materials. She explained that these are some of the measures that can help curtail the spread and prevent the disease.

She said: “Lagos residents must ensure proper disposal of waste and avoid possible backflow connection between water and sewer system. It is important that citizens thoroughly wash hands with soap and running water, especially after defecation, before eating or during food preparation, and when they have been in contact with a sick person or touch any item or surface that may have been contaminated.

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“We all need to maintain very good personal hygiene by frequently washing hands with soap and clean water before cooking and eating or feeding children, after using the toilet and cleaning up a child, after going out, among others.’

Akinyinka explained that gastroenteritis can be caused by dehydration, and can be especially dangerous for babies, older people, and people with other health conditions.

She said: “Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis include extreme thirst, dark urine, and feeling tired or dizzy. Children affected by the disease may have dry mouth and sunken eyes and cheeks, usually non-bloody diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and pain, nausea, vomiting or both, occasional muscle aches or headache and sometimes low-grade fever.

“Therefore, the people are encouraged to take anyone showing these symptoms to a health facility for treatment, especially when such a person is unable to retain food and keeps vomiting/stooling after a few hours.

“Treatment of gastroenteritis include taking plenty of fluids, oral rehydration drinks, such as salt water solution or oral rehydration solution (ORS). If vomiting persists, then there must be admission to hospital and intravenous fluid replacement, in severe cases. The causes are more commonly viral. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics, if bacteria was the cause, or drugs to kill the parasites, if parasites are the cause.”

State Epidemiologist, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Ismail Abdu-Salam, said health workers should ensure they take universal safety precautions, while dealing with patients affected by gastroenteritis. She urged them to practise good hand washing techniques and report any alarming increase in cases of vomiting and diarrhoea to the nearest hospital.

He said: “Health workers should also make themselves available for training on how to properly control and manage the infection. We also ask members of the public to report any suspicious case of gastroenteritis to hospitals close to them.”


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