Government is warning residents to wash their hands and use other good hygiene practices in order to avoid food- and water-borne illnesses in the volatile post-Irma environment.

“We are really concerned about gastroenteritis,” Environmental Health Officer Tianna Frazer said in a press release.

Ms. Frazer explained that the lack of running water and food-storage capacity across most of the territory increases the risk of the ailment.

“Persons are also cooking with contaminated cistern water, which can also pose a problem,” she said, adding, “We want to encourage persons — especially those who are working with food — to maintain proper hand-washing hygiene and to ensure that food is being prepared with clean potable water.”

Viral gastroenteritis is a common infection of the stomach and intestines that results in vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be caused by rotavirus, norovirus, bacteria, toxins, parasites, and some non-infectious diseases, according to government.

Ms. Frazer said that viral gastroenteritis, which is highly contagious, can be spread by the vomit or faeces of an infected person through contact such as shaking hands or sharing food or drink.

“As schools and day-care centres across the territory continue to reopen, all schools and school administrators are encouraged to be hygiene conscious,” she said. “Toys and surfaces should be disinfected often, and feeding/eating utensils, wash rags, towels and blankets should not be shared from one child to another.”

To further reduce risks, residents should promptly disinfect contaminated surfaces with chlorine bleach-based cleaners and promptly wash soiled clothing, according to the Environmental Health Division.