One of Russian propaganda’s central narratives is that Ukraine poses a threat to its neighbors and to the world community, and alarming fakes about hepatitis A, tuberculosis, measles outbreaks and impending nuclear disasters are churned out regularly by pro-Kremlin media. The newest fake in this vein is the claim that cholera was found near the Ukrainian Azov sea port of Mariupol.
The source for this claim is the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic “Hot Line” which on July 6 announced that an employee of the Mariupol city administration told the hot line about an impending cholera outbreak in Ukrainian controlled Donbas. This alleged informant said that the city’s health officials have found cholera in the waters around Mariupol since 2017 but Ukrainian authorities ignore these findings, creating a potentially dangerous situation for neighboring Russia and the Rostov area.
In mid-July several Russian media reported that Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s Federal Service Consumer Protection Agency began conducting its own testing of Azov Sea waters. The Agency also sent a letter to the World Health Organization Regional Office requesting information about cholera in Ukraine particularly in open water areas.
In a letter signed by WHO Regional Office program manager Dr. Jukka Pukkila, the WHO said they have no data confirming the presence of cholera in Mariupol or the surrounding area. The letter states that there is no confirmation of the many media reports about cholera in the Azov Sea area and points out that Ukraine conducts environmental monitoring throughout the country and has not found positive cholera samples in the Donetsk region. Dr. Pukkila also specifies that the presence of cholera in environmental samples “is not the same as a cholera outbreak public health risk”.
Responding to StopFake’s inquiry about possible cholera dangers in Ukraine, the Health Ministry said that as of July 18, 2018 no cholera cases had been recorded in Ukraine and no cholera bacteria were found in the Donetsk area or any other region. The Ministry published a statement on its website debunking Russian cholera claims.
According to the Health Ministry’s Community Medicine Center director Volodymyr Kurpita, nonvirulent cholera bacteria are sometimes found in the Azov Sea and the port of Mariupol. Nonpathogenic cholera strains incapable of causing disease are often present in aquatic environments. Ukraine continues to closely monitor the Azov Sea area despite the Russian supported occupation of eastern Donbas, regularly testing water samples, Kurpita says, membership in the International Health Regulations network requires that the country regularly inform its citizenry about infection outbreaks.
Ukraine continues to closely monitor the Azov Sea area despite the Russian- supported occupation of eastern Donbas, regularly testing water samples, Kurpita says, membership in the International Health Regulations network requires that the country promptly inform its citizenry about infection outbreaks.