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Russia faced with seasonal outbreak of meningitis serosa

June 27, 2013, 16:04 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, June 27 (Itar-Tass) - The outbreak of meningitis in Russia, which occurred nearly a month ago, has failed to subside yet, contrary to doctors’ forecast. The first cases of the disease were registered in Rostov-on-Don. Pretty soon it spread to other cities - Astrakhan, Lipetsk and its region, Nizhni Novgorod and Moscow.

The Health Ministry says, though, it is not an epidemic yet. The Investigative Committee is going to look into the circumstances of frequent meningitis cases all over Russia and also instances of doctors establishing the wrong diagnosis and refusing to take patients to hospital.

On June 2, a child was brought to hospital in grave condition from a pre-school care center in Rostov. The doctors identified “acute purulent encephalitis.” Two days later the kid died. Over the next few days more children from the same kindergarten began to be brought to other hospitals in the city. Some adults proved to have the same disease, too. Over the following three weeks 55 children in Rostov were diagnosed with meningitis serosa.

Laboratory tests identified enterovirus 71. Last time it was registered in China in 2009.

In a small city of Yelets, the Lipetsk Region, 50 people have been taken to hospital on the suspicion of having meningitis. The diagnosis was confirmed in 25 cases.

There are alarming situations in a number of other regions of the European part of Russia. Five children with meningitis serosa were hospitalized in Voronezh. Two days earlier a similar incident occurred in Astrakhan, where four children of pre-school age were taken ill. A group of ten children fell ill with meningitis in five childcare centers in Nizhni Novgorod.

On Wednesday six trainees of a children’s sports school in Moscow were diagnosed with meningitis serosa. The Investigative Committee at once launched a probe into the mass outbreaks of that disease in different parts of the country.

The Health Ministry was quick to make calming statements. The situation is stable and no epidemic is underway, the deputy chief of Moscow’s health service department, Alexei Khripun said, adding that meningitis is usually more frequent each summer and spring, which is a “normal situation.”

“I believe there is no reason for panic,” the press-secretary of Moscow’s health service minister, Oleg Salagai, told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. “What we are seeing today is a traditional summer outbreak of the infection. It happens every year.” As Salagai pointed out, different types of enterovirus have been identified in all regions of the country, which merely confirms they are local, sporadic outbreaks, and not an onslaught of the same disease.

The chief infectionist of Moscow’s health service department, chief doctor of the city’s infection hospital N. 1, Nikolai Malyshev, says the sources of infection may be different. Whereas the children in Rostov may have contracted the virus from Chinese migrants at a local bazaar, in Lipetsk the disease is blamed on unwashed fruit. And young football players in Moscow may have been drinking infected water from the same bottle.

Epidemiologists have been warning everybody to be cautious not about the infection as such, but about the accompanying panic. Outbreaks of meningitis have occurred only in two regions of Russia - Rostov and Lipetsk, while in all other regions the rate is normal. However, doctors advise one and all to wash hands as often as possible and to refrain from taking a swim in suspicious reservoirs.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms.

The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light (photophobia) or loud noises (phonophobia). Treatment must be started without delay, Otherwise grave complications or even a lethal outcome are likely.