Dysentery outbreak prompts state of emergency

  • 2001-10-04
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - A severe outbreak of dysentery at an elementary school in the town of Tukums, northwest of Riga, has caused the local municipality there to declare a state of emergency.

So far, 56 people have contracted the disease, out of which at least 49 are elementary school students. Four have been hospitalized, but these numbers could grow.

Service at the school's cafeteria has been suspended as well as at other school cafeterias in the area. Employees have been asked to have tests for dysentery, and they will not be allowed back to work until the test results are negative. One of the possible causes for the outbreak is a lack of personal hygiene among people who have been either going to classes or working in the school's cafeteria, according to health officials.

The National Environment and Health Center is currently conducting an investigation, but according to the head of the epidemiology department, Dr. Jurijs Berevoscikov, the outbreak may stem from the school's kitchen.

"There are many different reasons for dysentery outbreaks," he said. "Personal hygiene is only one of them."

He also said that they had successfully identified the specific dysentery agent roaming in Tukums, but that tests were still being conducted to determine the cause.

"The incubation time could vary between one and three days. Most common symptoms are fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting," Berevocsikov said.

Tukums District Council has ordered the district's general practitioners to inform about their patients' conditions and drugstores have been told to increase their supplies of medicine for treating intestinal diseases, while the town's hospital is making room for more patients.

Berevocsikov said that the number of infected cases could increase.

Latvia is one of the last countries in Europe with frequent dysentery outbreaks.