Author`s name Michael Simpson

Enemy at the Gates

Atypical pneumonia registered in 27 of the 33 Chinese provinces
Atypical pneumonia is actively advancing; thousands of people are taken ill with it, hundreds of people fell victims to the disease. What measures should we take in connection with the danger of atypical pneumonia? Deputy director of the Russian Health Care Ministry's medical center for sanitary and epidemiological protection in the Far East, Galina Lobanova gives answers to the pressing questions arising in connection with the epidemic.

Our close neighbor, China, hushed up information about atypical pneumonia for a rather long period. Does this fact pose a serious danger to the whole of the world?

It is certainly a great danger. The disease has been already registered in 27 Chinese provinces out of the total number of 33 ones. Concealment of information about disease is typical of Chinese. When some time ago I went for a business trip to China together with my colleagues, Chinese provided us with scant information about infectious diseases raging in the country, despite of the fact that we are medical specialists, not ordinary citizens. As a result of this tactics, outbreaks of atypical pneumonia are registered not only in China now, but also in Toronto. As of now, the number of people suffering from atypical pneumonia is over 5,000.

As the World Health Organization informs, up to 5 million people fall ill with regular pneumonia every year, about 2 million people die of the disease. Why is atypical pneumonia so scary?

This is because a new pathogenic organism wasn't identified at the beginning. Only when Canadians understood what the virus was, the whole of the world realized that the new unusual virus caused high mortality. It is easy to catch it. As it turned out, the infection can be caught not only through breathing, but also through the gastrointestinal tract. All mucous membranes are entries for the infection. So, we should wash hands oftener to get protected from the disease.

It is said that the danger caused by the disease will abate when warm summer days set in. How can you explain these statements?

The matter of the fact is that these viruses are not stable enough in the environment. What is more, people spend more time out of doors in summer. It means that the number of people suffering from atypical pneumonia may go down.

Unfortunately, atypical pneumonia tests cannot be done in the Primorye region, only in Moscow. Why?

Yes, now we have to send data for atypical pneumonia tests to Moscow. Although it is an express method and diagnostics takes just few hours, but results of the tests can be received in Vladivostok in several days only, because the distance between Moscow and the region is great enough. The enterprise Vektor in the city of Novosibirsk produces a test system for diagnostics; the chief sanitary inspector of Russia ordered to supply all regions of the country with the systems. But this takes time, medical institutions in different parts of the country will be able to get the system in about half a year.  

How can the disease be diagnosed?

We have issued special instructions for medical institutions of the medical center and suggested several characteristics that may help identify atypical pneumonia: headache, muscular pain, asthenia, dry cough, weak breathing. However, the epidemiological anamnesis is the most important fact in this case: it is necessary to find out whether a patient visited the pestholes, China or Taiwan. In most cases, all people diseased with atypical neumonia recently returned from the dangerous regions.

We've heard that the Russian Research Institute of Influenza developed a special manual explaining how to diagnose and cure the new dangerous disease. Do you have one?

Unfortunately, we haven't got it yet. It's a big problem in fact, because fast diagnosing is essential to save people's lives.

Russia's Primorye region is very close to China; lots of tourists visit the region, seamen and merchants go to and from China. So, the Russian region of Primorye is a risk zone. Isn't it wiser to close the borders?

By instruction of the Russian chief sanitary inspector, contacts with dangerous regions have been limited starting with April 25. People who all the same have intention to go to China, must take precaution measures.

What are the measures?

There is no need to take ribaverin if you didn't contact people diseased with atypical pneumonia directly. It is necessary to  take polyvitamins, immune modulators (the Dibazolum pills, 2 pills a day within 10 days). This guarantees wonderful protection. It is also recommended to take adaptogenes – Eleutherococcus and ginseng. If necessary, one should wear a gauze mask, at that nose must be obligatorily covered with the mask. Sometimes, gauze masks sold in drugstores are poor protection, we prefer to make such masks ourselves: we take four layers of gauze for this purpose. These masks must be changed every three hours. When being in a dangerous zone, one should put on glasses to protect the eye mucous membrane, and to wear rubber gloves, as the disease can be caught not only through breathing.

Do you think that this virus can be cultivated in a laboratory?

Judging by information I have at my disposal, this is not ruled out.

What would be your recommendation to our readers?

Don't panic and reduce your contacts with the dangerous regions, first of all. If you go to China, take all precaution measures: take lots of gauze masks and change them every three hours. Unfortunately, no vaccine against atypical pneumonia has been developed yet. It may appear in a couple of years at best.

Galina Kushnareva
The Vladivostok newspaper

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