Authorities in Moscow on Thursday shut most workplaces after one of the worst outbreaks of a deadly virus in the Russian capital this year.
At least 16 people have died in Moscow after falling sick with the mosquito-borne disease Chikungunya — which often causes flu-like symptoms and arthritis and in extreme cases has been linked to birth defects — and more than 30 others were hospitalized. More than 500 cases were confirmed this week in the Russian capital.
“The epidemic is severe, every day in Moscow more victims and cases of hospitalization,” Dmitry Polyanskiy, acting head of Moscow’s regional Health Department, said in televised remarks Thursday. “The situation requires us to act very quickly.”
Polyanskiy said all “unnecessary work” in Moscow and its suburbs would be halted and ordered the closure of kindergartens, schools and libraries.
Moscow’s metro was closed on Wednesday and a ring road was shut for a night. Transport unions demanded that Moscow put on all its buses to fight the virus. The city has already banned bathing at six lakes, rivers and ponds over concerns that mosquitoes could breed.
Chikungunya has spread rapidly in Russia and around the world in recent years. There are two kinds of human Chikungunya infections — the type being seen in Moscow is called “dengue”, or “fierce”, and another called “relentless”, which is not caused by the same virus.
In all, two million people are infected each year by the virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This also is the reason why Chikungunya virus has been found in the U.S. and in parts of the Caribbean and elsewhere.
Dr. Jeannette Adler, deputy medical director at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told The Washington Post: “It is rare to have multiple cases around the world. We usually have one case, maybe two cases a year, of regional infection. The U.S. has seen a surge in cases,” she said.