Mihkel Laidna, chief doctor at the Kuressaare Hospital ER, said a lot of people are coming down with diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain in Kuressaare, Saaremaa. The Health Board suspects contaminated tap water.
Laidna wrote on social media that preliminary information suggests the wave of illness could be tied to the water system as doctors are unable to find any other common cause.
"The outbreak is contained to the city of Kuressaare. People might want to avoid consuming tap water until more information is available Or at least boil the water first," the Kuressaare ER head wrote.
Laidna said on Sunday that while the pathogen remains unknown at this time, more information should be available soon.
He told local paper Saarte Hääl that the situation was calm until Saturday at noon after which people started arriving at the emergency room. He has sent the Health Board information on a few dozen patients, with whole families usually taking ill.
All people with symptoms are from Kuressaare. The dominating symptom is vomiting, while half of people afflicted also suffer from diarrhea and stomach pain.
Laidna said the outbreak is not tied to any event and was probably caused by the Wednesday water outage in Kuressaare in the course of which the city's water supply must have been contaminated.
But there have been reports of a stomach affliction from Orissaare and other parts of the island.
Health Board: Tap water might be contaminated
The Health Board is working on ascertaining the cause of the wave of illness and also said there is no cause to suspect the people affected attended the same event.
The agency said that water contamination is possible and recommends avoiding tap water in the Kuressaare area until the test results are in. If water use cannot be avoided, it needs to be boiled for at least 10 minutes as such treatment destroys most pathogens that cause similar symptoms.
Preliminary suspicions point to an Escheria coli (E.coli) intestinal infection that has a latent period of three to eight days.
The Health Board had information about a few dozen people who had turned to the Kuressaare Hospital on Sunday, around ten of whom needed hospital treatment. The elderly and children are most at risk from contaminated water.
One person in intensive care
Kuressaare Hospital's Chief of Medicine Edward Laane told "Aktuaalne kaamera" news that ambulances have responded to 14 calls and around a dozen people have turned to the ER. One person is in severe condition in intensive care, he said.
Laane urged people to take be mindful of their health, especially stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. The best course of action should any of these symptoms manifest is to drink mineral water.
While Saaremaa schools will open on Monday, students are asked to take boiled water with them from home.
Editor: Marcus Turovski