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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tatarstan City Fights Outbreak of Cholera

Five ponds at the edge of the Tatarstan capital Kazan were destroyed Tuesday in a bid to halt a cholera outbreak that has infected at least 33 people and may have killed a 40-year-old man.

First Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko said that the city, about 700 kilometers east of Moscow, would not be placed under quarantine because authorities have the outbreak under control.

The outbreak started Thursday when three boys swam in a contaminated swimming hole in Azino, a residential district in the east of Kazan. They were immediately hospitalized and are now in stable condition.

Among the 33 infected by the cholera bacteria are 19 people under the age of 14, Tatarstan's chief sanitary doctor Viktor Morozov said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Also hospitalized are about 200 people who either came in contact with the infected people or who displayed cholera symptoms. They will have to spend six to 10 days in the hospital until three subsequent tests give them a clean bill of health.

Onishchenko, speaking at a briefing in Kazan, blamed the outbreak on the low level of sanitary conditions in the city, news agencies reported.

Kazan has checked all 500 ponds and reservoirs in the city and surrounding area and only found the cholera bacteria in one of the five ponds in Azino, Interfax reported. The ponds, which measure not larger than 4 meters to 10 meters in diameter each, were destroyed Tuesday.

"Early in the morning they were dried up, covered with chlorine and shards of wood soaked in fuel, and burned down," said Olga Lavrova, a journalist with local television station who witnessed the event. "They were then covered with dirt, so the forest still looks nice even without the evil lakes."

In other measures to counter the spread of the bacteria, Kazan is putting more chlorine into its drinking water and sewage drains and increasing the frequency of street cleanings and garbage pickups, Itar-Tass reported.

The Health Ministry was investigating Tuesday if the death of a 40-year-old man was linked to cholera.

"He died of alcohol poisoning. But cholera was found during the autopsy," said Yury Fyodorov, head of a department of regional sanitary control at the Health Ministry. "We are still discussing what killed him."

Fyodorov said no other cholera cases had been registered in any other region, including Moscow.

Lavrova said Kazan residents were calmly going about their lives Tuesday.

"People do worry in Kazan about cholera, but there is no panic," she said. "We took a poll yesterday asking people whether they feel safe, and people were split 50-50 in answering the question."

Tens of thousands of residents, though, have been questioned about their activities over recent days. Also, all unofficial markets have been closed and "all families that don't properly watch over their children, who could swim and sleep where they want," have been questioned and tested, Lavrova said.

Cholera is an infectious, intestinal disease whose symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and cramps.