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Grisha Balasanyan

Intestinal Flu Virus Hits Armavir Kindergartens: Sanitary Conditions Found to be Lacking

The No. 6 kindergarten in the town of Armavir has been closed for three days due to an intestinal flu outbreak that landed a bunch of kids, aged 3-6 in the hospital on May 18.

They all came down with the same symptoms – diarrhea, vomiting, fever and overall fragility. Also hospitalized were children from the No. 9 Armavir kindergarten.

No. 6 kindergarten Principal Anna Soghomonyan told Hetq that on May 18 several children were absent but that the school didn’t know the reason. The next day two children were hospitalized and diagnosed with intestinal flu.

Soghomonyan went on to say that a few other cases followed and that some of the parents thought their kids caught the virus by eating strawberries.

The principal says that tight now there is one child being treated at the Metzamor hospital and another at the hospital in Armavir for the virus.

Results of inspections conducted by the Ministry of Health at the kindergartens revealed gross violations of food preparation and storage sanitary codes.

Soghomonyan told Hetq that the school has kept all the furnishings as clean as possible, but health inspectors found traces of the intestinal bacteria on several items in the kitchen and playrooms.

Kitchen Toilets

The principal admits that the kindergarten’s kitchen needs to be renovated. The same goes for the bathroom. After the outbreak, the Armavir Municipality sent new fixtures to the school for installation.

There is no hot water at the No. 6 kindergarten. The staff has to boil water on electric hot plates. The windows have been painted over in order not to let sunlight in.

Soghomonyan says that she has sent a list of what needs to be repaired to the municipality and that the work has started.

No. 9 Kindergarten

On the day Hetq visited the No. 9 kindergarten the gates were closed. But we saw people in the building. Neighborhood residents told us that the kindergarten has been closed since the kids were diagnosed with the virus.

What is the Alashkert Mayor Concealing?

The kindergarten in the Armavir village of Alashkert has also been closed for the past few days as well. Only Hamlet, the elderly caretaker, can be seen cutting the grass and telling visitors why the school’s doors are closed.

“There was a case of poisoning. They closed the kindergarten,” Hamlet Hovsepyan explains.

We should note that between May 8 and 10, eleven children were transferred from Alashkert to the Armavir Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases’ Unit. They were suffering from fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

The Armavir branch of Armenia’s Investigative Committee has already launched a criminal case of sanitary violations regarding the Alashkert matter.

Alashkert Mayor Karen Hovhannisyan didn’t want to talk about what happened at the kindergarten, arguing that Hetq wrote an unfavorable article about him four years ago.

Hovhannisyan added that he had no ideas as to how many children had been affected and what their condition was at present.  

In an attempt to throw us off the track of Laura Ghazaryan, the kindergarten’s director, Hovhannisyan lied to us, saying that she lived in Armavir and not Alashkert. When we visited Ghazaryan’s house another family member came out to meet us and told us that she had gone to Yerevan and would return late. The person wouldn’t give us her telephone number, claiming that she had left it at home.

Alashkert ambulatory unit nurse Lousik Mnatsakanyan told Hetq that the situation in Alashkert was under control and denied any news of food poisoning. The nurse argued that had it been a case of food poisoning or a virus the majority of 59 children at the kindergarten would have been affected and not just a few.

“I know the kindergarten’s director and cook. They are good workers. The cook is a tidy woman. I can rule out that food poisoning occurred there. The weather was humid. Probably the kids ate cucumbers and such at home and felt queasy afterwards. It has nothing to do with the kindergarten,” said Mnatsakanyan, adding that 5-6 children complaining of vomiting and diarrhea were sent to area medical facilities.

The children’s parents refused to talk to Hetq about what had happened, saying that it was all in the past, and they didn’t want to make waves with the mayor or kindergarten director.

Here, we should note that on March 23 the Alashkert Municipal Council decided to charge a monthly enrollment fee of 5,500 AMD and a daily meal fee of 260 AMD per child at the kindergarten.

New Cases of Intestinal Flu in Armavir Province

It turns out that local officials gave us low numbers as to the children affected by the virus. Anahit Petrosyan, head of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Armavir Medical Center, told Hetq that during the past week they admitted eleven children from the Alashkert kindergarten, four from the Armavir No. 6 kindergarten, nine from the No. 9 kindergarten, one from the No. 7 kindergarten, and three from the No. 11 kindergarten.

She said that some have already been released and the rest are getting better.

Petrosyan couldn’t say for sure if all the children had caught the virus at the kindergartens they attended.

“Intestinal sickness can result from dirty hands, from food or water, or through contact. As to the specific source, I can’t say. That’s the work of specialists,” Petrosyan said.

She said that such cases aren’t anything out of the ordinary since infections are seasonal by nature. The heat and water in the province can, she argued, create ideal conditions for the virus to spread.

“All the guilt shouldn’t be placed on the kindergartens,” Petrosyan said. 

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