GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Dr. Virginia Asin Oostburg, Head of the Collective Preventive Services (CPS), a government department under the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, on Sunday said, the investigation into the Norovirus outbreak at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino has been concluded.
Norovirus gastroenteritis, is a common disease worldwide affecting all age groups and often causing outbreaks. The Norovirus symptoms are: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, myalgia, headache, malaise, fever, or a combination of several of these symptoms. The latter lasts usually 24 to 48 hours.
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino noticed a sudden spike in guests complaining of mainly vomiting and a few cases accompanied with diarrhea. This was reported among approximately 200 tourists that arrived from Canada around February 17. The hotel’s consulting doctor was called in and guidelines were provided in connection with sanitation measures. After a dormant period of about a week, a sudden increase in gastroenteritis was noted again among some overseas students that had checked-in on February 24 with the majority checking in on February 25.
Treatment was provided by the hotel’s physician and at the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC). Again, various sanitation and preventive measures were re-emphasized at the hotel. Because of the inherit aggressiveness of the norovirus, very hard and effective measures had to be implemented in the hotel according to the investigations and inspection results observed by government officials.
“The intervention by hotel management and staff in the initial phase was well managed. It can be concluded based on the ministries investigation that this was not an outbreak originating in food or drinking water, but rather by external intrusion stimulated by cross contamination.
“I would like to thank all stakeholders for their professional response during this process from the hotel, the Emergency Room staff at the SMMC, St. Maarten Laboratory Services, Ambulance Service, as well as attending private family doctors for the role they played, was the response of Minister of Public Health Emil Lee after being briefed on the conclusion of the investigation. Minister Lee followed the investigation closely and visited the hotel where he took part in one of the meetings.
“Various recommendations have been made to further strengthen outbreak response procedures, management and control. These will also be extended to other hotels on the island. We look forward to working with all stakeholders as we further strengthen our community response mechanisms for infectious diseases and viruses,” Dr. Virginia Asin Oostburg said on Monday.
Collective Prevention Services took the lead in outbreak surveillance and investigation to identify the transmission mode and potential sources to guide the implementation of response measures. The department recommended strict adherence to preventive and control measures.
Ministry VSA is drafting national guidelines for Norovirus outbreak management. The ministry plans to meet with the hotel sector in collaboration with the St. Maarten Hotel and Trade Association (SHTA) and the Tourist Bureau, to inform them about the guidelines and to provide for a Norovirus prevention and management package.
The Inspectorate of Public Health, Social Development Labour will require that all hotels have a Norovirus sanitation control plan in place and operational to prevent Norovirus borne gastroenteritis.