The number of people hospitalized due to contaminated water in the Elbistan district of the Mediterranean province of Kahramanmaraş has risen from 5,000 to some 32,000, while a group of officials announced a norovirus infection in caisson wells within the water supply network from Ceyhan River was the cause of the contamination.
“We needed to find what the microorganism causing diarrhea was and the source of it. In light of the samples we took from the patients, we determined that what caused their diarrhea was a norovirus, which means bacteria and viruses together,” Health Ministry Health Services Department General Manager İrfan Şencan told journalists at a press briefing on Aug. 29, adding it can spread very easily.
“It’s a type of virus that can cause stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, fever and diarrhea. It can spread very easily and affects a lot of people. I need to stress that in addition to the infection occurring through drinking water directly, one can be infected through several other ways including kissing, washing hands, preparing meals, shaking hands and so on,” he added.
Şencan noted there was no issue concerning the chemical quality of the water.
“There is a bacterial, microbial pollution here. Thus, we’ve determined that the points where the water has become polluted are the water wells. Nearly the entire province has been infected due to the pollution being in the wells. Overall, according to the analysis of the samples taken from patients, the cause for the disease is a norovirus. The reason for the pollution is clear: Water wells,” he added.
Public Hospitals Authority in Turkey chair Prof. Alper Cihan, who took part in the press briefing regarding the poisoning outbreak, said some 32,000 people had received treatment in the last three days.
“Reinforcements consisting of a total of 42 doctors and 36 nurses were sent to Elbistan. Plenty of health supplies were transferred to the district from several other provinces,” Cihan told journalists, adding that 80 percent of the hospitalized people had received ambulatory treatment.
“Thankfully, we don’t have patients in critical condition. A total of 69 people are receiving inpatient treatment. The complaints can continue decreasingly for a week more,” he also said, adding that the fact that thousands of people had been treated in hospitals showed “how strong an administrative and health system the country has.”
Meanwhile, Kahramanmaraş Governor Vahdettin Özkan, who was also at the same press meeting, said that necessary precautions had been taken regarding the norovirus.
“We’ve formed crisis centers with great speed. All of the teams worked for 24 hours,” he said, adding that pharmacies were also kept open for 24 hours.