Doctors say the most important way to prevent the virus from spreading is hand hygiene. <em>*iStock photo</em><br />
Doctors say the most important way to prevent the virus from spreading is hand hygiene. *iStock photo

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15: Hundreds of islanders have been struck down by a major outbreak of gastroenteritis.

In the last two weeks 84 people have attended the Emergency Department at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital suffering from what is believed to be the Norovirus, which causes gastroenteritis. Six more went to the Urgent Care Centre in St David’s between January 31 and February 13 for treatment.

A further 92 patients were also diagnosed with gastroenteritis, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, between January 23 and February 2.

Medics believe the figures are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as many of those affected by the virus either do not seek hospital care or just go to see their GP.

But they say the outbreak is not a major concern as patients had only exhibited minor symptoms.

Dr Edward Schultz, Head of Emergency Services, told the Bermuda Sun that the most important way to prevent the virus from spreading was hand hygiene.

He added: “This is obviously a lot more cases than we would usually see in this space of time.

“We might see a couple of cases a day but this is an unusually large number. There is no doubt we have an outbreak of gastroenteritis at the moment.

“About a third of the people we have seen with this illness are under 18. Most of the cases have been relatively mild.

“We have been able to hydrate a number of children orally, although a few children and a few adults have required intravenous drips.

“We have confirmed a number of this cases are the Norovirus and this is the virus that has closed down three different cruise ships in the past.”

Dr Schultz urged parents to keep their children away from school if they contracted gastroenteritis.

He said: “I don’t think this is a serious disease for most patients. But for some patients who are older or have immune disorders it could be more serious.

“All viruses have the potential to cause serious illness in people who are specially susceptible and have pre-existing conditions.

“But in general what we have seen is a mild illness. People are obviously uncomfortable with the symptoms but they are easily treated and discharged quickly.

“We have had outbreaks like this before in the past. It is not a major concern. It has affected our volume in the hospital and there have been days when we have been busier than normal.

“But the symptoms do not seem to be severe.”