Epidemics rage across Russian hinterlands

CHOLERA, diphtheria and anthrax are breaking out across the vast expanse of Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union. At least 18 people have died of cholera this summer in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, and four have died of diphtheria in Izhevsk, capital of the Udmurt republic, 570 miles (910 km) east of Moscow.

The epidemics appear to be the worst in the former Soviet Union for many years. However, comparisons with epidemics in the Soviet period are hard to make because of uncertainty over the reliability of Soviet statistics.

Cases of cholera have been reported in places as far apart as Georgia, Tajikistan and the Siberian city of Omsk. In Russia alone, outbreaks have been recorded in 104 locations, according to the Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Natural Disasters. There are eight cases of cholera in the Moscow region, but officials say the patients are all refugees from Rwanda.

Authorities in the Sverdlovsk region of the Urals recently reported a serious outbreak of diphtheria. In Izhevsk, where 37 people have contracted diphtheria, there are plans to vaccinate 80 per cent of adults and 90 per cent of children by the end of October. Western doctors are advising foreigners intending to live in the former Soviet Union to be vaccinated against diphtheria.

Meanwhile, anthrax has appeared in Armenia, the Crimean peninsula, the Russian republic of Tuva, near the Mongolian border, and the city of Voronezh, south of Moscow. The seven patients in Voronezh are soldiers and members of their families. The authorities say they caught the disease from meat, bought from private traders.

Health authorities say they have the problems under control but in the case of Dagestan's cholera epidemic, the situation is clearly considered dangerous. The Russian government sent Interior Ministry troops to the region last week to prevent the spread of the disease, and medical students have been released early from university to help out.

Yevgeny Belyayev, the Russian health official in charge of handling the crisis, predicted last week that the cholera epidemic would be eliminated by mid- October. According to government statistics, 686 people were ill with cholera last week and 669 were carrying the disease.

Radio Russia reported on 22 August that emergency measures were being taken to suppress cholera in the oil-producing town of Nizhnevartovsk in the Tyumen region of western Siberia. How the disease penetrated Siberia is unknown. But the radio said that managers of oil and gas enterprises had been ordered to check all workers coming from southern regions of Russia.

The precise causes of Dagestan's cholera epidemic are unclear but they appear to be linked to a gradual breakdown of law and order since the Soviet Union's disintegration and the subsequent deterioration of water and health services. The authorities in Dagestan alleged that Muslim pilgrims had brought cholera back from Mecca and Medina but the Saudi government denied this.

Mr Belyayev said that 65 per cent of new cholera cases in Dagestan were caused by unsanitary practices at funeral rites. 'We cannot ban these rites. But we are putting pressure on people to wash their hands in disinfectant and to prepare less food. We are also compiling lists of those who take part,' he said.

One thousand people a day are being tested for cholera in Dagestan and those wanting to leave the republic must produce medical clearance certificates. However, such is the anarchy on Dagestan's borders with Azerbaijan and the Chechen republic, which is trying to secede from Russia, that it has proved impossible to stop people getting out.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Advisor - Print

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based just north of York, this ...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant - Global Leader - FTSE 250

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family run school photogra...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map