Swedish city takes fight to water parasite

Ozone and chlorine are among the measures deployed by Östersund municipality in northern Sweden to try kill off the parasite which has afflicted the stomachs of thousands of residents and rendered the water undrinkable.

Swedish city takes fight to water parasite

Many Östersund residents have called the municipality to report that they have noticed the strong smell of chlorine in the water. But this is nothing to worry about, underlined Jörgen Vikström at the municipality.

“It is a question of trying to make the living conditions of the parasite as poor as possible. That is why we use ozone, cut the pH value, and change the chlorine level,” he said.

The municipality has also confirmed that it will allow sector organisation Svenskt Vatten to inspect the city’s water system in response to expert opinion that the system is poorly constructed with intake and outtake points in the Storsjön lake too close to one another.

“There have emerged details in certain media that our construction and works have been wrongly constructed. We plan to consult Svenskt Vatten, which is an independent expert, to check if our system is correct,” Bengt Marsh at the municipality said to the local Östersunds Posten daily.

According to Jari Hiltula, the head of environment policy at the municipality, the source of the parasite is thought to be the water treatment works in Göviken.

The Local reported on Tuesday that a local prosecutor has launched a probe into possible criminal negligence, while police closely follow the work being carried out to track how the Cryptosporidium parasite ended up in Östersund’s drinking water.

More than 5,000 residents have taken ill after ingesting water from the city’s water supply, many suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, and severe stomach cramps.

Residents of the city, roughly 50,000 of whom are connected to the municipal water system, can expect to have to boil tap water for several weeks, an expert with the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet) told the TT news agency.

Once the source of the parasite has been found and shut off, it will take at least a month before it’s possible to drink water directly from the tap.

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Swedes fear ‘worrying’ rise of super-gonorrhea

Swedish doctors fear that ‘super-gonorrhea’, untreatable by conventional antibiotics, is on the rise after seeing the number of cases of the sexually transmitted disease more than double in six years.

Swedes fear ‘worrying’ rise of super-gonorrhea
The Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria is becoming increasingly resistant. Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)/Flickr
“The situation in Sweden is worrying,” Hans Fredlund, a doctor in charge of Communical Diseases and Prevention in the city of Örebro, told The Local. “We need new antibiotics effective against gonorrhea within a few years or the situation may become worse.” 
Gonorrhea, a bacterial infection, leads to a burning sensation and a thick green or yellow discharge from the urethra or vagina. Untreated, it can lead to inflammation of the joints and heart valves. In a small number of cases, it can even be fatal. 
Dr Fredlund said that Sweden had already recorded several cases of a new strain of ‘super-gonorrhea’, with bacteria resistant to azithromycin, one of the three most common antibiotics usually used to treat the sexually transmitted infection.
“The international antibiotic resistance situation is well known in Sweden and we have seen some azithromycin resistant strains, but also different other resistant strains,” he said. 
“Doctors should…always take a bacterial culture to see which antibiotic will be best for treatment. For this reason it is important that all these patients should be treated and controlled by experienced venereologists, as we do.” 
Fredlund's comments come after Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, wrote to all doctors this month, calling on them to make sure they were prescribing the right antibiotics, following the discovery of 'super-gonorrhoea' in Leeds in northern England March. 
“Gonorrhoea is at risk of becoming an untreatable disease due to the continuing emergence of antimicrobial resistance,” she said.
Spread by unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex, Gonorrhoea, was until recently most prevalent in Sweden among men who have sex with men, or Swedes who contracted the disease abroad, particularly in South East Asia. 
But over the last decade the number of cases has more than doubled from 691 in 1995 to 1,545 in 2015, according to the latest figures from the Swedish Public Health Agency.  
“What has happened in Sweden in recent years is that gonorrhea has become a disease diagnosed among young heterosexual persons who contracted the disease in Sweden,” Dr Fredlund said. 
He warned that this could lead to a spike in its prevalence as a much larger group of people was now exposed to the bacteria. 
The expert said that for public health officials the challenge was that warnings about safe sex needed to be imparted anew to each generation. 
“Sex is a great instinct and each year there are new people starting their sex life,” he said. “Information campaigns should go on each year and safe sex messages should be given to all teenagers at school.”
“The most important thing is to not have casual unprotected sex,” he said. “If you have casual sex, use a condom!”