Azerbaijani citizens concerned over mass poisoning of children by tap water
Severe poisoning of children in Sumqayit town and its suburbs has become a top theme, actively discussed on Azerbaijani social media over the past weekend.
A total of 139 children (including 119 of them aged 2-7) were taken to Sumqayit municipal children’s hospital with symptoms of nausea and gastric distress.
Many parents presumed that the poisoning was caused by tap-water which children drank while playing outside. One woman released a video appeal, saying that the water in the local reservoir was allegedly contaminated and it was supplied to Sumqayit and the adjacent residential areas. The video appeal was swiftly disseminated through the Watsapp network and was shared by some opposition media outlets.
The reports about the children admitted to Sumqayit hospital with suspected mass poisoning caused panic among the residents of Baku and Sumqayit. Rumors have spread on social media about some poisoned water and unknown infection, urging people not to drink tap water. The panic-stricken people actively started buying up bottled water in stores.
On 12 June, the Azerbaijani Health Ministry’s press service released lab test results which indicated that the mass poisoning was caused by a rotavirus infection, which is often mistakenly referred to as ‘intestinal flu’.
As was also pointed out in the report, ‘46 children are currently undergoing in-patient treatment’. “Their health condition is reported to be satisfactory and they will be discharged soon.”
Anar Jabrailli, a spokesperson for the ‘Azersu’ company, the national operator of the water supply and sewerage system of Azerbaijan, denied reports on the alleged poisoning of the water reservoir. In his words, the samples were taken from the ‘Azersu’ water reservoirs and no signs of water contamination or poisoning have been revealed. “Three-day water samples have been tested. The results of water sample testing prove that there is no reason for panic. ‘Azersu’ experts are currently examining the houses of those who have turned to hospitals. Baku city is also supplied water from this reservoir. If it had been water-related poisoning, similar cases would have been reported in Baku too,” APA news agency quotes Jabrailli as saying.
Telman Zeynalov, the President of the National Center for Environmental Forecasting, presumed that the matter probably concerned mixing of drinking and sewage water. In his words, since Soviet times, the sewage and water pipelines have been running underground parallel and close to each other. Over time, they get rusty, start leaking and, as a result, the water interpenetration occurs.