Increase in Gastrointestinal Illness

The Pittsfield Health Department would like to inform residents that there has been a recent upswing in gastrointestinal illness, especially in children. Gastrointestinal (GI) illness is also known as the “stomach flu or bug.” GI illness typically presents with a sudden onset and generally includes some combination of nausea and vomiting, along with a watery, non-bloody diarrhea, and “stomach ache” or abdominal cramps and discomfort. A low-grade fever occasionally occurs, and vomiting is more common in children. The most common complication of GI illness is dehydration, especially among the young and the elderly. Symptoms generally last 24-48 hours, and are usually followed by complete recovery. People should contact their physician if the following warning signs of illness occur:  high fever, severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, lightheadedness, or dizziness.

The Health Department would like you to know that GI illnesses are highly contagious and are primarily spread person-to-person by coming into contact with contaminated body fluids (stool, vomitus.) They can also be spread through contaminated food or water. The incubation for the most prevalent GI illness is 24-48 hours. Personal preventative measures people can take include always washing hands thoroughly for at least 15-20 seconds with soap and warm water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet, and after changing diapers. An infant’s or toddler’s hands should also be washed after a diaper change. An adult should assist young children with hand washing, especially after the child uses the toilet and before eating. One should dispose of feces and vomitus in a sanitary manner. Careful hand washing is extremely important when caring for a person who has vomited or has diarrhea. The Health Department recommends that people with underlying medical conditions or who are immunocompromised contact their physician if they become ill with a gastrointestinal illness. For more information, please call Pittsfield Public Health Nurse, Mary-Jane Sackett, RN, at 413-499-9469 or Health Director Gina Armstrong at 413-499-9411.