- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 October 31, 2003 

Water Alert: Sewage in drinking water provokes emergency response to prevent disease

The torrential downpour that marked the arrival of the fall in Yerevan last week caused unexpected health danger to thousands of the city's residents.

Rain streams damaged the shabby pipes of drinking water and sewage with the result that on Sunday morning the residents of Arabkir and part of the Kentron (Center) communities of Yerevan received a blend of sewage and drinking water in their apartments.

So far, 78 people including 60 children have been hospitalized with stomach infections at the Nork Hospital for Infectious Diseases, after drinking the sewage water.

"The health condition of all patients including children is stable," says Ara Asoyan, director of the hospital. "The primary diagnosis is the enteric infection of the middle stage. However the final results will be clear within 72 hours, when all analyses are completed."

Officials at the Health Ministry invited journalists to a press conference on Wednesday to announce that patients suffering the effects of the contaminated water will be treated free of charge.

The water problem raised the indignation of Yerevantsis who have many questions and few answers. Meanwhile, officials refrain from explaining how sewage water made its way into residents' homes and why the regular rain damaged the water pipes.

78 people mostly children have been hospitalized with stomach infections after drinking sewage water.

In some buildings, residents were deprived of drinking water for the weekend. When the water re-appeared in their pipes it was so heavily chlorinated that it could not be drunk.

Specialists from Yerevan Water Supply and Sewerage JSC said the water was chlorinated to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. They said leaks in the pipes are being repaired and that the chlorinated water presents no health risk.

However, doctors have been advising people to drink only boiled water, saying the chlorinated water, although safe from infection, is unsuitable for drinking.

"The regular water supply will be restored in Arabkir and Central communities only after specialists give a positive result," says Vahan Poghosyan, Head of the First Aid Department of the Health Ministry.

"We initiated a special brigade to control the situation. The doctors and officials of the ministry meet every two hours to exchange information. We sent all the collected data to the Minister of Health, who in turn reports to the Prime-Minister," Poghosyan says.

Doctors say that the health conditions of all patients including the youngest ones is stable.

A 24-hour hotline was set up to provide citizens with information and offer consultations in case of medical need. Artavazd Vanyan, head of the anti-epidemic department at the Health Ministry, says that doctors in all policlinics and hospitals have been informed of the emergency situation.

"We ask all citizens not to delay if they have problems and to go to the policlinics. Now the water is being inspected thoroughly and in case of discovering infection the necessary measures will be taken," Vanyan says.

"The first symptoms of many infectious diseases including dysentery are giddiness and nausea. The doctors work under an emergency regime, they visit schools, kindergardens and citizens, especially families with children, to examine them. The situation is under control."

Doctors expect to receive more patients in the days ahead, however, and do not exclude the possibility of cases of dysentery, the incubation period of which is 20 days.

As doctors say the disease by itself is not dangerous if treatment by antibiotics is being taken in time.

Doctors at Policlinic No 8 on Baghramyan Street say that many citizens have applied to them for blood examinations. Most of the people standing in line are mothers who have brought their children for examination.

Sales of bottled mineral and spring water have soared. In several streets on Komitas Avenue in Arabkir district, water was sold out by Tuesday. Meanwhile, meteorologists promise more rain in Yerevan in November.



According to Agnes
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This week Armenia was commemorating the fourth anniversary of October 27 terroristic act in Armenian parliament and paying tribute to its victims. Among others Stepan Demirchyan visited the cemetery and laid flowers on the grave of his father, late speaker of National Assembly Karen Demirchyan.



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