Kuressaare ER chief: Surge in dehydration cases after bacterial outbreak

Kuressaare Hospital.
Kuressaare Hospital. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Ambulance call-outs in Kuressaare, capital of Saaremaa, have doubled following a bacterial outbreak in the island's water supply.

Mihkel Laidna, head of ER at Kuressaare Hospital, said the surge was likely the result of bacteria identified as present in the water supply, adding that the resulting stomach problems respond well to treatment.

Laidna said the symptoms were: "As if you want to drink, to take on water, but every time you do drink, you throw up almost immediately. People are getting dehydrated, their tongue's are completely dry and stuck to their palates, while they can often barely walk."

Diarrhea and nausea are also common symptoms, he added.

In the past 24 hours, 17 people presented at ER with gastro-intestinal issues, as noted around double the normal, expected rate.

At the same time, of those 17, only three have required actual hospitalization, since in most cases fluid replacement and anti-nausea and anti-emetics X tend to do the trick in leading to recovery.

Nonetheless, Laidna said, there is no miracle cure. The acute phase of bacterial gastroenteritis  lasts about half a day during which virtually nothing liquid or solid can be kept down, after which the issue starts to resolve.

If the patient has had an empty stomach for 12 to 24 hours, drugs need to be administered, but otherwise they do not, provided the issue is bacterial, he said.

Deputy Director of the Health Board (Terviseamet) Mari-Anne Härma said that over the last 24 hours, more people presented at the Kuressaare Hospital ER than during the previous 24 hours, ie. Sunday to Monday.

The Health Board announced at a press conference on Monday that microbiological analysis of water from Kuressaare's waterworks will take some time, though Escherichia coli and coliform bacteria have been identified; waterborne viruses cannot be ruled out, either.

The Agriculture and Food Board (PTA) says that all food producers on the island must halt work until the issue is solved, unless they have a water source other than then mains water supply.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte,

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