Health authorities here are still trying to find out what caused 30 patients at the St Philip District Hospital to fall ill between May 15 and 16.
The Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) had said in a release late last week that the Ministry of Health was investigating a suspected occurrence of foodborne illness at the District Hospital, with at least one patient who experienced severe symptoms being admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
But today, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Best told Barbados TODAY that the health of the patients had been restored, even though the cause of their illness was still undetermined.
“The outbreak at the St Philip District Hospital has settled and no patients have remained symptomatic,” Dr Best said, adding that they all were now well again.
Asked if the suspected food poisoning had been confirmed, the health official replied: “No . . . the outbreak investigation is still going on. The numbers were 30 [patients] that we reported and are still the same 30. So no more, no less.”
A senior ministry official had said that all of the patients were seen by medical practitioners and samples had been sent to the Public Health Laboratory for testing.
The official had also noted that a rapid response team from the Ministry of Health was investigating the cause of the illness.
The ministry said it wanted to assure the public that all necessary steps were being taken to adequately address the situation.
Three years ago Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John had raised concerns that acute gastroenteritis and other food borne illnesses were a much bigger problem than first thought.
Dr St John’s worries were informed by a three-year investigation into the issue carried out by the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) along with the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The probe, according to CAREC and the UWI, showed that potentially deadly illnesses like gastroenteritis “represent a considerable public health burden in Barbados”, a conclusion supported by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Environmental Health Officer Tyrone Applewaite.
The statistical information and other data and analyses had come from a report entitled, Population-based Estimates of Acute Gastrointestinal and Foodborne Illness in Barbados: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Study.
“Evidence of a large burden of [acute gastroenteritis] and [foodborne diseases] has been demonstrated with an estimated burden of 44,760 cases of laboratory-confirmed [acute gastroenteritis], with an under-reporting of 99.5 per cent,” the report indicated at the time, adding that there was an estimated medical cost of $16.5 million dollars.