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Meningitis hits another city in Kazakhstan

Medical laboratory. © Yaroslav Radlovsky Medical laboratory. © Yaroslav Radlovsky

78 more people have been registered with meningitis in Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports citing NV.kz.

Previously more than a hundred cases were registered in the capital of Kazakhstan Astana. Now, the virus has been caught by 78 residents of Karaganda, including 49 children.

Local doctors suggest that children contracted the disease while swimming in outdoor pools. At the same time, they assure the locals that there is no outbreak of the infectious disease in Kazakhstan, since one can speak of an epidemic only if at least 5% of the population is affected. However, there are more cases of enterovirus infections, including meningitis, in 2014 than in the previous year.

Days earlier there were 160 people hospitalised with meningitis symptoms in Astana, 80 of the cases have already been confirmed by laboratory tests. There, the Department of Consumer Protection of Astana gave the same explanation to the cases of meningitis as in Karaganda. They also said that it was not an outbreak but a seasonal rise.

Nevertheless, many remained unconvinced, so chief sanitary doctor of the capital Zhandarbek Bekshin had to reassure the public once again at a briefing on Wednesday.

According to the journalists, who attended the briefing, some parents of the sick children approached them to inform about lack of space in the city’s infectious diseases hospital, allegedly signifying a high number of meningitis cases. However Bekshin denied this.

The chief sanitary doctor reiterated that this was not an outbreak but a seasonal rise. He informed that 900 meningitis cases were recorded in Astana last year. "Last year there were 199 registered cases of meningitis before July 21, this year there have been 193 cases during the same period, which is even less than last year," he said.

However, according to the medical statistics, meningitis peaks in July in Kazakhstan. But from the doctor's statement, it looks like almost 80% of cases are registered after the peak month in autumn and winter, which is not typical for bacterial meningitis. Moreover, the doctor added that the seasonal rise has started to subside.

In the meantime, one can do something on their own to try to protect themselves and their children (who are especially vulnerable) against the virus. Infectionists advise against swimming in outdoor pools. According to the chief infectious diseases specialist of Karaganda Oblast Rauza Baltynova, meningitis virus can survive in water for more than three months. In addition, the virus spreads by airborne droplets and may live on unwashed vegetables, fruit and tap water.

To reduce the risk of catching the enterovirus infection one should drink only bottled water or boiled tap water; wash hands with soap before each meal and after each visit to the toilet; strictly observe the rules of personal and public hygiene; wash fruit and vegetables with a brush before eating them; swim only in officially designated places; abstain from purchasing food products of unclear origin or away from officially designated trading areas.

Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis occurs more often than bacterial meningitis, and is milder. It usually occurs in the late summer and early fall. It most often affects children and adults under age 30. Symptoms usually come on quickly, and may include: fever and chills, mental status changes, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light (photophobia), severe headache, stiff neck, agitation, bulging fontanelles in babies, decreased alertness, poor feeding or irritability in children, rapid breathing, unusual posture, with the head and neck arched backwards.

Doctors advise against reserving to self-treatment. It is recommended to immediately see a doctor in case of noticing the symptoms.

By Dinara Urazova

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