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GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Handwashing with soap is an effective and affordable way to prevent infections and diseases.

The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department from the Sint Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, via its syndromic data reporting for epidemiological week 38, when compared to previous weeks, has seen an increase in gastroenteritis for all ages.

Gastroenteritis symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting, also known as the ‘stomach flu.’ Your stomach and intestines are irritated and inflamed also leading to stomach pain, headache, nausea, fever and cramping.

The syndromic data, which are weekly diagnosed symptoms, are submitted by sentinel sites, a sample of local physicians and the hospital, who submits weekly syndromic numbers to CPS.

CPS then reports these data to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Curacao National for registration and analysis.

The weekly syndromes that are monitored are Fever & Respiratory Symptoms ARI; Undifferentiated Fever; Fever & Hemorrhagic Symptoms; Fever & Neurological Symptoms; Gastroenteritis; Rash & fever and Acute Flaccid Paralysis.

Handwashing must be practiced at key times, such as before and after using the toilet; treating wounds; inserting or removing contact lenses; handling pet food/treats; touching an animal, animal feed or waste; and handling garbage. Behavior change is essential for making handwashing a habit.

It is very important to wash hands with soap before cooking or preparing food, before eating, and before feeding someone (including breastfeeding) or taking care of others ill or not.

Help children to stay healthy by teaching them about handwashing and show them how proper handwashing is done.

Contamination of food and spread of infectious viruses or bacteria can lead to a wide range of illnesses and outbreaks, many of which are particularly dangerous for young children, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly.

The CPS calls on residents to be vigilant and to implement handwashing with soap as one of the most important public health interventions as clean hands saves lives.

Many infections start when hands are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and viruses. This can happen after using the toilet, changing a child’s diaper, coughing, sneezing, touching other people’s hands, and touching other contaminated surfaces.

Handwashing with soap works by removing bacteria and viruses from hands before they get a chance to cause infections or spread to other people.

For more information, you can call CPS 542-1322, 1122, 1222 or 542-1570.

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