Health authorities say they have found nothing so far linking a Christmas Day outbreak of gastroenteritis at some business establishments on the south coast and the ongoing sewage mess.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George told Barbados TODAY this evening that after the ten cases were reported, a team from the Ministry of Health, including environmental health officers and officials of the epidemiological department, started investigations on December 30 and found no evidence that the long-running sewage problem was responsible for the outbreak.
“We have found no bacterial or viral contamination in the establishments across the south coast,” said Dr George, who explained that the teams had carried out an environmental health assessment of food kitchens in the area.
The senior health official said the teams went to the various proprietors and food establishments to determine the source of the gastro, which is caused by contaminated food or water.
“There is a process for this. It involves interviewing persons who were affected. It involves taking samples and it also involves paying scrupulous attention to harm prevention and control strategies at food establishments. The laboratories have been assisting us,” he stressed, adding that the ministry would continue to update the public on developments.
However, despite the absence of a direct link, Dr George said the ministry established several guidelines which the outlets must follow in the preparation, storage and delivery of food on the south coast.
These include regular washing of hands, ensuring hygiene practices are at least at a minimum standard, and reporting all illnesses to the ministry.
He is also urging motorists using the south coast road to slow down in order to avoid splashing pedestrians.
Less than a week ago, community activist Adrian Donovan called on the Ministry of Health to immediately order the temporary closure of fast food outlets, restaurants and guest accommodations directly affected by the worsening sewage crisis on the south coast.
Donovan acknowledged it would be a painful move, but said it was necessary because the sight of faeces bubbling at the doorstep of restaurants was akin to “selling food from a portable toilet”.
And while the acting chief medical officer today said these businesses had done nothing that warranted them being shut down, he did not rule it out should they fail to adhere to the required food management standards.
“We have found no evidence to have to close down businesses. Our aim is to protect the public,” he warned, adding that nothing had been found so far to indicate that the water supply had been compromised.
Meanwhile, dozens of dead fish have been seen floating in a swamp at a commercial and residential facility at Perone Village, Worthing, Christ Church, which property officials blame on the sewage leaks.
Donovan told Barbados TODAY one of the residents of the apartments had already moved out and another one was in the process of following suit due to the effluent on the property.
“This situation has gone past a national crisis . . . it has now taken on catastrophic proportions,” Donovan warned.