There was only one culprit responsible for the outbreak of gastroenteritis on the south coast over the Christmas and New Year holiday, the Ministry of Health is reporting.
After confirming 35 cases of the stomach flu during the holiday period, with the latest being a single case on January 3, the ministry today said it had concluded its epidemiological investigation and had determined that it was a localized food-borne disease linked to an unnamed food establishment.
It also said in a statement that there was no evidence linking the outbreak to the ongoing sewage spill, which has plagued the south coast for nearly two years, and has forced the closure of at least two food enterprises.
“No other clusters of similar illness were reported from elsewhere in the area of the sewage spill. No organisms were identified through laboratory testing. Therefore, the outbreak has not been linked to any particular food or beverage, or the sewage spill,” the statement said.
The ministry did not say what action, if any, was taken against the business, or if it had been forced to take corrective action.
However, the Environmental Health Department said it had stepped up monitoring in the affected area to provide specific guidance to managers and staff of food establishments on safe food handling practices. Additionally, it has held two training sessions for operators and kitchen and restaurant staff to update them on food safety, cleaning and sanitizing, and vector control and pest management, the health department said.
While acknowledging the ongoing challenges, the Ministry of Health pledged “to continue to take all the necessary steps to reduce public health risks”.
The 35 confirmed cases did not include five suspected cases of British visitors whose holiday here ended in disaster after having dinner at a popular fine dining south coast restaurant.
Joanne Collins, the spokesperson for the group, said while they intended to return to Barbados, they would probably “not be eating at the south coast restaurant” unless the sewage problem is fixed.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart yesterday told the business community a solution was under way with financial help from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
While he did not reveal how much it would cost to resolve the crisis, Stuart told the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry he was in possession of a final report following extensive testing and assessments carried out by experts since December last year, and that report would soon be sent to the IDB, which would then provide the necessary assistance.
“We are committed in the short-term to mitigation measures where possible, but when all is said and done, the country needs to be assured the Inter-American Development Bank is involved in this.
We have reports. The matter is being evaluated. There are experts in this area whose wisdom and insights we have to take seriously and therefore on whose wisdom and insights we rely . . . So the matter is receiving our daily attention,” the Prime Minister assured.