Winter 1995 (3.4)
Infectious and Contagious Diseases
by Dr. Irada Yusifli
They're back again-those deadly, contagious and infectious diseases that we worked so hard to eradicate during the Soviet period. And they've returned at a time when we are so susceptible and so inadequately prepared.
Left: Anthrax has reappeared in Azerbaijan. It is an infectious disease transmitted via sheep.Azerbaijanis do not have the necessary serums to treat it and must use penicillin.The disease can be deadly.
AIDS has been identified in six cases. Two people have already died. Baku has an AIDS Center.
Anthrax can be contracted while butchering or skinning infected sheep. No immune globulin exists in the Republic against Anthrax so we treat it with heavy doses of penicillin. The disease is too far advanced before we see most people because they have to come in from the countryside. So far this year, we have not had any deaths.
Botulism is an extremely severe form of food poisoning which occurs when non-acidic foods (everything except fruits and tomatoes) are improperly canned or preserved. Jars must be been boiled 5-10 minutes with their lids off. Death results when the respiratory organs become paralyzed. Two years ago, half a village in Kazakh died from eating smoked fish.
Cholera is spread in contaminated water or food and is marked by severe diarrhea and vomiting. Officially, we don't have any cases, but in fact, there are occasion cases, especially since the outbreak last year in Daghestan.
Diarrhea can become very problematic, especially for young children. We lose a lot of them when they become dehydrated.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease of the throat and nose that can affect adults as well as children. It can be fatal. We have serum now but it won't be enough for the entire year as the number of cases has increased. Normally, children are inoculated.
Hepatitis exists but we don't know how widespread because people are staying home.
Malaria, caused by infected mosquitoes, used to be the scourge of our land not so many decades ago. Presently, there are very few cases.
Polio was non-existent in our country before. Now we're seeing a few cases.
Tetanus bacilli often enter the body through puncture wounds. We have no serums to counter this highly fatal disease. Many children are dying. We used to inoculate children before their third birthday.
Tuberculosis is much more widespread now than any time since independence. Many victims don't come to the hospital although there are numerous sanatoria where people can go to recover or where children can board while their parents get well.
There are so many complications related to these diseases. There's a strong tendency for patients to postpone coming into the hospital for treatment. Often they don't come at all which used to be prohibited. Too often we can't help them because we don't have drugs. It makes it nearly impossible these days to truly understand how widespread these diseases are.
Dr. Irada Yusifli works at the Infectious Center at Hospital #1, Baku's main hospital.
Health Advice for Foreigners
Before coming to Azerbaijan, you should generally be in good health. Foreigners working with AIOC and some other companies have access to Overseas Medical Supply (OMS) which provides emergency care enough to stabilize patients until they can be evacuated (if necessary).
Organize a medical kit. If you have any long-term prescriptions, make sure you bring more than you think you'll need. Often assignments extend longer than anticipated. Be prepared for headaches, coughs, colds, toothaches, cuts and scratches, and especially diarrhea. Many people rely on vitamins to help maintain health. Bring an extra pair of glasses or contacts if you wear them. Flashlights always come in handy. Don't forget extra batteries.
The following vaccinations are suggested. Though not an official, this list was compiled by foreign medical personnel working in Azerbaijan who know the health conditions. Check with your own doctor. (1) Hepatitis A and B; (2) Tuberculosis (BCG); (3) Polio (oral); (4) Typhoid (oral); (5) Diphtheria; and (6) Tetanus.
In general, there seem to be no major problems in Baku related to malaria or rabies. From time to time, there are a few cases of cholera. There are a few AIDS cases and it's always important to protect yourself from venereal diseases.
Be particularly cautious about water. Don't drink it unless it's boiled. Many people warn against even brushing your teeth with it. Some opt for bottled water.
Use common sense when eating out. The food is different, and customs are somewhat different. If something tastes bad, simply don't eat it. If meat looks uncooked, avoid it. Salads in restaurants can spell trouble. Food preserved in jars can cause deadly botulism if the jars have not been boiled long enough. At home, wash all vegetables and fruits with boiled water.
Foreign medical personnel do not recommend that children be brought to Azerbaijan as there is limited foreign pediatric care. Of course, some families do bring them along and experience no problems. There is no foreign service available for obstetrics (pregnancy); gynecological care is limited.
From Azerbaijan International (3.4) Winter 1995.
© Azerbaijan International 1995. All rights reserved.