Sverdlovsk Russia: Legionaires’ or Something Else

An interesting tidbit of news showed up today out of Russia:

AUG 2 2007
Pneumonia outbreak in Sverdlovsk Region: 167 infected, 5 killed

The number of people killed by the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Verknyaya Pyshma, Sverdlovsk Region, increased. On Wednesday, a woman died in hospital, a REGNUM correspondent was told at the Sverdlovsk Region Healthcare Ministry.

It is worth mentioning, the diagnosis “Legionnaires’ disease” has not been confirmed yet, tests are being held. Overall, 167 people have been sent to hospital for the last two weeks. As of 08:00 a.m. local time today, five people were in the intensive care of the Verknyaya Pyshma Central Hospital.

First patients with signs of the Legionnaires’ disease started turning to hospital on July 20. Experts are now investigating what causes of the outbreak might be. Under preliminary information, the people got infected through water-pipe in hot water. Criminal proceeding was instituted on the charge of manslaughter.

I have been mulling this over for several hours and things seem to be a bit “off”. I backed up and did a brief news search:

MOSCOW. July 30 (Interfax) – The pneumonia-like symptoms that resulted in the hospitalization of 110 residents of Verkhnyaya Pyshma (Sverdlovsk region) were caused by the legionella virus, Russia’s chief epidemiologist and head of the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Supervision (Rospotrebnadzor) Gennady Onishchenko told Rossiya television on Monday.

“The samples that were sent yesterday have been confirmed by up- to-date, imported tests. This is an outbreak of legionellosis,” he said.

The Sverdlovsk region’s Health Minister Mikhail Sklyar, for his part, said that the virus might have been contracted through food, running water or beverages.

Running hot water seems the likeliest version,” he said.


Legionnaire’s Disease is known to grow in warm to hot, usually stagnant water.

So, my brain has been itching, and I did a bit more digging, just plugging blind searches into Google…

From here:

Two cruise liner passengers have tested positive
for Legionnaires’ disease, forcing their ship to dock at Dover two days early.

The Black Watch, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, cut short an excursion after seven passengers fell ill with flu-like symptoms on Friday.


Tests on the ship have so far found nothing, and passengers this morning suggested the bacteria could have been picked up during the ship’s stop in Russia.

Bill Cocking, 75, of Ealing, West London, said: “There have been some comments that it came from fountains in St Petersburg. Another cruise ship was apparently caught out with the same thing.”

The route of the cruise ship The Black Watch:

Map showing the geographical location of the Sverdlovsk region:


Map showing St Petersburg’s location, (12 o’clock of Moscow):


This is a bit disjointed, but I don’t exactly believe the cases in Sverdlovsk are Legionnaire’s disease. I think Russia has a ready disease in Legionnaire’s because of the tourists that have tested positive for cases seemingly contracted in St. Petersburg.

There would be no criminal charges for faulty plumbing in Russia, a nation of faulty plumbing.


There is another oddity that I uncovered in my buzz around the ‘net for information:

Sverdlovsk anthrax leak is an incident when Spores of anthrax were accidentally released from a military facility in the city of Sverdlovsk (formerly, and now again, Yekaterinburg) 900 miles east of Moscow on April 2, 1979. This accident is sometimes called “biological Chernobyl[1]. The ensuing outbreak of the disease resulted in 94 people becoming infected, 64 of whom died over a period of six weeks. There was an estimated 67% fatality rate, which tripled the Soviet Union’s yearly average morbidity from anthrax. The cause of the outbreak had for years been denied by the Soviet Union, which blamed the deaths on intestinal exposure due to the consumption of tainted meat from the area, and subcutaneous exposure due to butchers handling the tainted meat. All medical records of the victims had been removed in order to obscure the symptoms consistent with respiratory exposure, to avoid revelations of serious violations of the Biological Weapons Convention, and to hide embarrassing inadequacies in the Soviet health care system.


I don’t pretend to know what is happening in Sverdlovsk, but I am deeply suspicious of the reported cause.

Given the threat of Avian Influenza, to say nothing of the biological weapons in the area, at least historically, it is certainly worth keeping an eye on, even if in the end it is a massive outbreak of Legionella pneumophila.




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