Five English visitors who met at a south coast hotel and spent two weeks there have returned home with bittersweet memories of their experiences in Barbados during the Christmas season after falling ill with what they suspect to be gastroenteritis.
Spokeswoman for the group Joanne Collins, who along with her partner David Heads regularly contribute to local charities, told Barbados TODAY that their holiday ended in share disaster after they chose to dine with three friends at a popular south coast restaurant.
She explained that apart from her partner, the party of five included their friend Rob, who they met in Cuba last Christmas and who had joined them on the Barbados trip, as well as Della and Richard who had stayed at the same hotel and had shared their taxi to the restaurant.
“Della, Richard and Rob were in Barbados for 14 nights. Della and Richard had been to Barbados before, but a few years back. David and I have been to Barbados 11 times, usually twice a year, but this was our third visit this year . . . never before suffering any illness,” the English visitor told Barbados TODAY.
However, “we flew back to London from Barbados on the 28th [of December] and all five of us who dined at a south coast restaurant on the 27th became extremely sick with diarrhea,” Collins reported, explaining that “one person [fell ill] on the flight, one on the way home travelling by car [in England] and three within hours of getting home” after making the eight-hour journey by air from Barbados.
Collins did not present any medical evidence to support her claims of gastro, but said it was the first time in the 11 visits to the island that she and her partner had ever fallen ill.
“I thought it was something on the flight which I have duly reported to Virgin Atlantic, but it looks very likely it was gastroenteritis. When we arrived home [in England], we were so poorly, I could not attend a special afternoon tea I had arranged for us at Blenheim Palace on the 31st [December] and the 1st January,” she told Barbados TODAY.
“I also had to take a day off sick from work on 2nd January,” she added, in explaining how the sickness took holds of her body.
However, the British visitor specifically asked that the name of the restaurant and the hotel where they stayed not be published for fear of the economic fallout that might occur, but she was very upfront in recalling details of her dining experience at the restaurant, which Barbados TODAY can confirm is among those affected by the ongoing sewage leaks along the south coast.
In fact, the fine dining establishment operates in the heart of the troublesome Hastings/Worthing area that has been worse affected by the worrying effluent stench.
Ironically, on the night in question, Della and Richard were the only ones to complain of smelling sewage, as they were the only members of the group who were dining outside.
However, the others, who were dining inside the restaurant, suggested that their meal was one to die for. And while complimenting the restaurant on the quality of its service, Rob even confessed that the Tiramisu he ate was the best ever.
Little did he know, he would live to eat those words a few hours later.
However, despite the awful bout of what they believe to be gastro, they said they still intend to return to the island again.
“The gastroenteritis finished it off badly, but we enjoyed Barbados so much we will still be back in May . . . probably will not be eating at the south coast restaurant though, unless the Government takes action, [in fixing the sewage problem],” Collins emphasized.
The visitors, who reached out to Barbados TODAY to share their story and for help in contacting the authorities about their recent plight, have also issued a written complaint to the management of the south coast establishment which has since issued an apology.
“I’m really sorry that you felt sick and I hope you have had a speedy recovery. Last week we called the heath department of Barbados. A health inspector and an epidemiologist have been checking our premises and food procedure to ensure the correct handling of the food processes. Nothing viral has been found inside the kitchen,” the restaurant said in an emailed response, dated January 7, 2018.
In its letter, the restaurant also admitted that “an outbreak of gastro has been detected by the Ministry of Health on the south coast and that “we had cases among guests and staff with diarrhea and vomiting.
“It’s an airborne virus, so it’s hard to control and to pinpoint exactly where it started,” the restaurant said, adding that the business had unfortunately been singled out because the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea were associated with food poisoning.
In the letter, the restaurant also expressed hope that Collins and here friends would come again next year, even though the visitors have made it abundantly clear that they have no plans of eating at that establishment again until the sewage mess is fixed.
Only last week, Rapid Response and Communications Manager for the state-run Barbados Water Authority Joyann Haigh told Barbados TODAY a set of new proposals had been submitted to the board, designed to bring immediate short term relief to those affected by the sewage crisis which has already forced the closure of two food businesses and a section of an apartment hotel.
Haigh also said she expected the board to quickly address the proposals.
But as strong evidence that the situation there is getting worse before it gets better, the Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George today reported that the ministry was now dealing with 35 suspected cases of gastroenteritis, up from the ten cases that had been reported at food establishments on the south coast on Christmas Day.
“So far, investigations suggest that the cause of the outbreak is likely to be viral in nature. While epidemiological investigations are continuing, no organisms have been identified through laboratory testing. In addition, the outbreak has not been linked to any particular food or beverage,” Dr George said.
Nonetheless, health officials are maintaining that there is no direct link with the effluent problem and the reports of gastro.
Meanwhile, Chief Environmental Health Officer Francina Bascombe said today that the Environmental Health Department had increased the number of officers assigned to the sewage-affected south coast to 15.
The team has stepped up inspection of food businesses as well as increased its mosquito control activities. It has also widened the area of coverage to stretch from the Top Rock Roundabout to Hastings.
Senior Medical Officer of Health Dr Leslie Rollock identified the primary public health concerns as the risk of infection if contaminated water is ingested directly or indirectly, noxious smells and mosquito breeding.
“The risk for gastroenteritis from the contaminated water comes from ingestion which most likely would be inadvertent. Persons should repeatedly practice hand hygiene, frequently washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based sanitizer,” she advised.
In relation to mosquito control, she said the Ministry was treating identified areas of standing water with a larvicidal chemical as well as continuous fogging to destroy adult mosquitos.
Dr Rollock assured the public that potable water from the taps was not connected to the sewage network and repeated tests had confirmed that tap water remained unaffected.