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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flu Hits Hard in Moscow, Nearly an Epidemic

Moscow is suffering from a influenza outbreak that has almost reached epidemic proportions, according to the Moscow Center for Sanitary and Epidemic Supervision. and it is very likely to get worse.

The number of reported cases of the flu in Moscow hit 96, 514 in January, according to Irina Lytkina, the deputy chief of the center's epidemic department.

If the city registers 131, 700 cases, the outbreak will be reclassified as an epidemic, Lytkina said.

Moscow residents do not need these official statistics to tell them that they're sick.

Offices around the city have had their numbers depleted by employees that cannot get out of bed, and last week the Anglo-American School "lost almost the entire fifth grade" to illness, according to the school nurse, Cathey Sell.

But what is behind the sudden outbreak?

Lytkina said that the flu virus that is going around at the moment, which the center calls Type B, is a particularly virulent one that can leave patients bedridden for over a week.

It is regarded as a more dangerous strain than Type A, that typically lasts for two or three days. Symptoms include a very high temperature, headache, and extreme fatigue.

Lytkina attributed the increase in flu cases in January to the fluctuating temperatures.

She said the districts hardest hit by the disease were the northwestern, central, and southern sections of Moscow, as well as the outlying area of Zelyonograd.

There is no sign of the flu letting up. Teachers at Moscow School No. 149, near the Sokol metro station, report that although only five out of their 80 students are off sick at the moment, lots of children who are at school have bad coughs and colds.

"The flu season is only just beginning here", said the school secretary. "We have lots of people here who are sick".

Only two of the 40 doctors at the Diagnos medical cooperative are off work at present, but the administrator attributed this to the fact that "doctors are healthier than most people".

But, he said, "This is only the beginning of the flu season for us".

Moscow's doctors have another, potentially more lethal medical problem looming on the horizon, however.

Diphtheria, a highly contagious illness that has been nearly eradicated in the West, threatens to reach epidemic proportions in Russia.

Health experts attribute this to the public's distrust of immunizations. This is due, they say, to a general fear of government health services and rumors that doctors reuse syringes, prompting fears of the spread of AIDS.

Only 54 percent of Moscow's infants received diphtheria vaccinations in 1992, according to Nikolai Filatov, the city's chief of public hygiene.

About 4, 000 cases of diphtheria were reported in Russia in 1992, according to The New York Times, up from 1, 869 last year, according to Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

A potentially fatal disease, diphtheria is transmitted by airborne bacteria and causes inflammation of the heart and nervous system.

By the mid-1970s, very few cases were seen in the Soviet Union. But according to Filatov, the number of people immunized dropped sharply in the 1980s, prompting a return of the disease.