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By Bernadette H. Carreon

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Dec. 27) - The Ministry of Health reported that there were 265 cases of gastroenteritis in Palau as of December 20, citing that the number of cases per day is declining and below the peak of the outbreak especially in Peleliu.

Dr. Isebong Asang, Program Manager of Community Advocacy Program said that the Bureau of Public Health is still concerned about the cases of gastroenteritis and reiterated that preventive measures are important against the outbreak.

Asang stressed that proper hand washing is the key against the outbreak so is cleaning bathrooms and cooking area with high concentration of bleach.

Asang said the 265 cases do not include Peleliu. Peleliu, she said has 298 cases since the outbreak begun.

She added that visiting hours are being enforced at the hospital, which are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Children under 12 are not allowed in the hospital unless they are ill or have an appointment to see the doctor at which time they are to restrict their activities to those areas as in OPD or laboratories, etc.

Signs that encourage hand washing can be seen in all entrance and exit openings of the hospital including both the men and women's bathroom.

Asang said because the viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious the Department of

Environmental Health is asking all food handlers to refrain from cooking or handling food until 48 hours after they are well.

The ministry has also sent public announcements to all government agencies, ministries, schools, both private and public including Head Start private companies such as hotels, restaurants, business, food distributors, food handlers.

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