Outbreak of gastroenteritis bugs debate competition students

POSTED: 03/1/16 5:58 PM

New controls at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort

St. Maarten News – Gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and the intestines, affected a number of participants in the Leeward Islands Debate competition on Friday evening at the Maho Beach Resort and Casino. A team of collective preventive services, led by Dr. Asin and Maria Henry, “cannot rule out food as the source for the gastroenteritis,” the ministry of public health said in a press statement.

“The preliminary conclusion is that based on the assessment of two physicians – Dr. Virginia Asin and Dr. Hidde Deketh – there is a gastroenteritis virus involved, most probably the Noro-virus.”

Gastroenteritis has several possible causes – from infections by viruses, bacteria and parasites, to food poisoning and stress.

The Noro-virus mentioned by CPS in its press release is, according to the American Center for Disease Control, responsible for more than half of all food-borne disease outbreaks each year.

This is what WebMD writes about Noro-virus: “People become infected with noro-viruses when they eat food or drink liquids that have been contaminated; raw or undercooked oysters and raw fruits and vegetables have been implicated in some outbreaks. You can also get infected if you touch an object or surface that has been infected with the virus and then touch your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Noro-viruses thrive on cruise ships (as well as in daycare centers, restaurants, nursing homes, and other close quarters), because they are very hardy and highly contagious. They can survive temperature extremes in water and on surfaces.

Once someone is infected from contaminated food, the virus can quickly pass from person to person through shared food or utensils, by shaking hands or through other close contact. People who have a weakened immune system are particularly susceptible to catching noro-viruses.”

When Public Health Minister Emil Lee received notice about the situation at the Maho Resort, he immediately notified the inspection department and CPS.

The president of parliament, DP-MP Sarah Wescot-Williams was at the debate when the problems started and she alerted the public health ministry.

CPS assessed the situation at the St. Maarten Medical Center where debate students were mostly suffering from vomiting. The students were treated and then discharged from the hospital.

At the Maho Resort, students were treated for dehydration. CPS established protocols for the hotel whereby students and other guests with vomiting and diarrhea symptoms were to remain in their rooms. Staff was notified to adhere to proper hygiene procedures. The hotel executed additional cleaning and disinfection procedures.

On Saturday the CPS team returned to the Maho Resort to conduct interviews. Maria Henry, Likia Pickerio, Laniol Tromp, Swinda Richardson and Nirmala Vlaun were joined by Minister Lee, who stated in a press release: “The team from the ministry of health has my full support and confidence. They are approaching this situation objectively and professionally. And just for the record, at no time were inspections or investigations halted or obstructed. I am, as usual, extremely proud of them VSA and the staff at SMMC.”

The inspectorate checked the kitchens at the establishment and found that “as far as hygiene and food handling is concerned, the food inspectors observed that the kitchens are in proper hygiene condition.”

St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) is conducting tests on food samples that are expected to be complete by the end of this week. Until then, the inspectors cannot rule out food as the source of gastroenteritis.

According to a press release from the public health ministry, the Maho Resort received “a number of recommendations” to establish protocols that aim to eliminate the spread of viruses.

“The Public Health Ministry has a control and regulatory function, but also an educational one,” Minister Lee said. “The ministry should be seen as a resource for the community to call on when it has a problem and needs advice on how to manage problems. We encourage the community to reach out for guidance and assistance whenever necessary. We are here to create a healthy and safe environment for residents and visitors.”

Minister Lee commended the participants in the debate competition. “Despite difficult circumstances, the debate competition continues. That is truly a testament to the resilience and determination of the youth of the Caribbean. This bodes well for the future. Congratulations to all participants.”

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Comments (5)


  1. eric says:

    we have reserve on maho beach resort at the end of the month
    should we cancel??

  2. Chris says:

    CANCEL. we were poisoned by these people. It’s that BAD!

  3. Judy says:

    Definitely cancel. The hotel is not only disgusting, but I am still sick 13 days later. I’m taking Flagyl now for four days and I’m still sick, so now I have to be tested to see what this is. My doctor thought it was a parasite. The staff were nasty and unhelpful. I thought it as the worst place I’ve ever stayed. The food was terrible as well.

    They poisoned everyone in the hotel when we were there, and we were there when the 50 kids were sick. We lost half the week and they refused to give us any money back. Cancel and go to a nicer section of the island.

  4. Judy says:

    We were also sick there at the time the kids got sick. We are still sick and taking Flagyl for parasites, but I’m not getting better.

  5. Judy says:

    Don’t go. My husband I had to be treated for parasites and it took three weeks to recover. Giardia was the culprit for me. the hotel badly needs renovation. Beach was small. I’d rate it a 1 star hotel. Food was terrible.