- PERVOMAYSK, Ukraine (KPNews.com)
- News coverage of a mysterious skin ailment that sickened hundreds of
people in Mykolayiv region has slowed to a trickle despite the fact that
its cause - and long term effects - remain unknown.
- The rapid spread of the illness led late last month to
mass evacuations of children from five villages, requests for international
aid and top stories in the nation's media for a week running.
- But now parents and hospital workers in the villages
that have been inundated with sufferers of the strange illness are wondering
if their towns are being plagued by another threat: a government eager
to allow the mystery to fade away.
- By late last month 410 people, mostly children, in five
villages in the Pervomaysk district of southern Ukraine were diagnosed
with the ailment that doctors termed toxidermatosis. The sickness, which
is characterized by a rash, fever, enlarged liver and pancreas and high
levels of hemoglobin in the blood, was originally believed to have been
caused by fuel leaking from Soviet-era missiles buried in the area.
- On Aug. 31 the government declared all five villages
- Boleslavchik, Michurino, Pidgirye, Chausovo-1 and Chausovo-2 - ecological
disaster zones and announced it would seek international aid.
- But on the following day, Mykolayiv regional authorities
issued a statement saying that the health risk danger was over and that
all water in the area was safe to drink.
- Despite the proclamation, Mykola Mohilevets, the region's
emergency situations deputy, said the cause of the outbreak was likely
caused by something in the air or water - possibly rocket fuel.
- As a precaution, hundreds of children from the afflicted
villages had been evacuated because he said it was dangerous for them to
stay in the area. Still he reiterated that the health risk had passed and
only two children were currently ill in the stricken area.
- Apparently, he hadn't spent much time in the children's
ward at Pervomaysk hospital. In the hallway outside the pediatric ward
mothers updated each other on the latest news while they waited for their
children to be examined. Alyosha, 22 months, was diagnosed with toxidermatosis
in late August. He has large red dots that resemble chicken pox covering
- "He has been anemic since birth," explained
his mother, Nadya Petrenko. "We used to celebrate if his hemoglobin
was 106, but for the past 10 days it has been 140."
- Petrenko is from Chausovo-2. Ilona Koval, who is at the
hospital with her two children, is also from Chausovo-2. Koval's son has
red bumps all over his body and her daughter has them on her genital area.
- Anya Lubovcka, 7, from the neighboring village of Kamyana
Balka, also has red bumps in her genital area. Anya's mother, Liza, first
brought Anya to the hospital on July 22 because she had a very high temperature,
yellow skin, swollen eyes, and diarrhea. She also had the rash of red bumps.
- The temperature and yellow coloring are gone, but the
bumps and fatigue remain. Lubovcka would like to take her daughter somewhere
else but doesn't know where to go. Because her village is not included
in the ecological disaster zone, Anya will not be sent to a sanatorium
- Although they are in the effected area, the children
in Chausavo-2 were supposed to be evacuated, but the order was cancelled
when the area was deemed safe. Still when schools across the country opened
on Sept. 1, classrooms in Chausovo-2 remained closed.
- "There are 80 children in our school, and all of
them are in the hospital now," Koval explained.
- Two-year-old Paulina was one of the first in Chausovo-2
to be diagnosed with toxidermatosis. A group of regional experts who came
to the village on Aug. 27 told Paulina's mother, Olga, that Paulina had
a classic case of toxidermatosis and to take her to the hospital. When
a commission from Kyiv arrived on Sept. 1 Olga was told her daughter's
diagnosis was not confirmed, and she was sent home.
- But Paulina did not improve. She continued to suffer
from diarrhea, fainting spells and a rash. Olga met with other villagers
and they decided to return their sick children to the hospital.
- When the mothers brought their children back they found
treatment had not changed; but the diagnosis had. Olga was told that Paulina
suffered from an allergy and she was administered the same vitamins that
she was given earlier. When she prodded the doctors for more information,
they told her they had been forbidden to diagnose toxidermatosis.
- Alyosha's diagnosis was also changed to an allergy. The
mother's noticed that the results of the first tests and the original diagnosis
of toxidermatosis were removed from their childrens' charts before the
Kyiv commission came. Prior to the Kyiv visit, Anatoly Kostenko, one of
the few Chausovo-2 fathers at the hospital, was told his two sons were
recovered and to take them home. But like the other parents, he took his
sons back to the hospital. On Sept. 3, when another commission visited
the area, he said that he was locked in the hospital with his fellow Chausovo-2
villagers so the commission would not see them.
- The next day, the pediatrician in charge refused to talk
to the press. Before shutting the door on a reporter the guard in the children's
ward said she couldn't help us because she was afraid she might lose her
job. The head of the hospital, Dr. Vasily Andronik, does not give interviews.
- Region authorities report that there have been no new
cases of toxidermatosis since Aug. 30.
- "There are no sick children in Chausovo-2,"
Mohilevets said on Sept. 4. Lubov Malinovska, a worker at the medical clinic
in Chausovo-1 treated many of her fellow villagers for toxidermatosis during
the summer. The symptoms included declining eyesight, enlarged liver and
pancreas, low blood pressure and either high or low body temperatures.
But after the last commission came to her village, she was also told the
original diagnosis of toxidermatosis was wrong
- "Now I don't believe these new commission results."
- At the Pidgirye medical clinic the woman in charge, also
named Lubov, does not know what to think. She has been told the water is
not safe to drink and all 72 of the village's children have been sent to
a sanatorium in the Black Sea area.
- On the door of both clinics is a sign saying it is unsafe
to drink the water. "No one tells us the truth," laments Koval.
"It is just like after the Chernobyl disaster."
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