Deplorable hygiene conditions: Doctors are worried about the first cases of cholera in Mariupol
No respite for the bombed cities of Mariupol and Kherson. Outbreaks of dangerous diseases now threaten to break out in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. According to information from the British Ministry of Transport, which itself refers to the intelligence services, the first cases of cholera have already been reported on the spot.
Cholera is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration. The disease can be fatal. It is usually transmitted through contaminated water or food.
Ukraine experienced a serious cholera epidemic in 1995 and, since then, smaller epidemics, particularly in the region of Mariupol, on the shores of the Sea of Azov. The British warn: “The medical care system in Mariupol is probably already on the verge of collapse. A major cholera outbreak in Mariupol will only aggravate the situation.”
Order water and wait two days
Russia certainly provides basic services to the population of the occupied territories. But “Access to drinking water is uncertain, as well as telephone and Internet services remain severely disrupted,” said the Ministry of Defense.
According to Petro Andriuschenko, adviser to the deposed Ukrainian mayor, the current Russian-appointed government has imposed a quarantine in the city. To get water, residents have to place an order – with waiting times of up to two days.
Already at the end of April, the Ukrainian authorities had warned that “deadly epidemics could break out in the city due to the lack of water supply, the state of the pipes, the decomposition of thousands of bodies under the rubble, and the lack of food disaster.”
Transmission of cholera by refugees?
The situation is being closely monitored in Switzerland. Because cholera can also spread. Peter M. Keller, deputy head at the Institute for Infectious Diseases at the University of Bern, replies to Blick: “The cholera pathogen can be carried on trips by people with symptomatic diarrhea or by people who have recently contracted the disease. This was also the subject of scientific studies after the severe earthquake in Haiti.”
Jan Fehr, head of the Public & Global Health department and doctor at the University of Zurich, points out that there is unlikely to be a large-scale spread via refugees outside the crisis area. “Nevertheless, we must be vigilant here, and our health personnel does well to be attentive when a person coming from the crisis regions shows symptoms. In patients with cholera, the danger lies above all in dehydration which sets in quickly and against which we must fight.”
Other diseases threaten
Cholera is not the only disease threatening Ukraine’s already war-stricken population. According to the two doctors, the lack of treatment possibilities and the gaps in vaccination also favor the spread of diseases such as typhoid, amoebas, hepatitis A and C, diphtheria, Covid, and HIV.
Tuberculosis, which was already more common than here in the region before the war, is also a cause for concern. “With people’s increasing immunodeficiency, the situation is getting worse and we can expect even more cases of tuberculosis,” warns Jan Fehr.
Predisposed people are particularly affected by the disease. “Even the most minimal health care is hardly guaranteed on-site anymore,” he continues. A complicated situation that is getting worse day by day. Another element must also be taken into account according to the specialist: “It goes without saying that the mental health of patients is increasingly worrying.”