Fish in sewage blamed for Ukraine cholera

2011-06-06 19:14
Kiev - Ukrainian health officials on Monday were blaming fish caught in sewage and served to tourists for an outbreak of cholera in an Azov Sea seaside town, near the Russian border.

Hospitals in Mariupol were treating 14 people for the disease, which is most commonly found in developing nations.

All of the victims were expected to recover fully, according to news reports.

Restaurants serving fish caught in the vicinity of the town were the source of almost all of the infections, although two of the 14 probably caught cholera by ingesting seawater by accident, a Ukrainian Ministry of Health statement said.

A ban on swimming and fishing was in effect at all Mariupol beaches and in two nearby rivers.

Drainage ditches throughout the town were undergoing "a full cleaning" and locally-caught fish was being confiscated from Mariupol stores, the Interfax news agency reported.

Checks to be intensified

"All of this is under the control of the Lord but we are doing what we can," said Mariupol chief health inspector Georgy Gusakov. "We are warning people on the beaches of the health risk if they go into the water."

Russian officials said they would intensify checks to prevent the disease from spreading to their side of the Azov, and accused Kiev of ignoring their offers of assistance.

"We will be checking goods particularly moving into the Rostov region (which adjoins the Azov Sea)," said Russian Chief Health Inspector Sergei Onishchenko. "Last year we offered to send the Ukrainians one of our inspection teams to help identify possible disease sources ... but they refused."

Ukraine has reportedly rejected a fresh offer of help from Moscow.

The Azov Sea region has long been a popular holiday destination for Russian and Ukrainian tourists seeking a budget seaside vacation.

Mariupol, like many cities in the former Soviet Union, dumps much of its liquid sewage more or less untreated into an adjacent body of water. Fishing is generally banned nearby, but Ukrainian anglers often ignore the "no fishing" signs.

Goby and carp - considered by health officials the infected species most likely to have been served to the victims - are considered delicacies in the region.

A cholera-infected fish may be eaten safely if it is cooked thoroughly, although such is not always the case in Ukraine's poorly-regulated seaside restaurants, said Mikhail Andreychin, a food safety specialist.

Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine

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