After weeks of fighting a losing battle, Russia may finally be getting a grip on the drought-driven wildfires that have destroyed over half a million acres within 250 miles of Moscow. It was not until last weekend that the government was able to declare “it was putting out more fires than were appearing.” The spiraling disaster revealed incompetence and corruption that undermined firefighting efforts and the credibility of the government. Only recently did authorities admit the staggering effects of the forest fires and heat wave. In addition to 52 deaths directly attributable to the fires, the death rate in Moscow from all causes has doubled compared to the same period last year, according to Moscow’s senior health official. The failure to contain the fires has spawned a wave of concern that the conflagration may yet spread to the Bryansk region in western Russia where the soil is still contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It’s not clear that the fires will produce radioactive smoke, but fears remain. Russian authorities are also worried about the fires around the city of Sarov in central Russia which houses the country’s main nuclear research center. Satellite images have shown the fires are easily visible from space, and NASA has said the smoke has at times reached over six miles into the atmosphere. This dicey situation has led the United States, France, Germany and other European countries to issue travel warnings discouraging all non essential travel to the region. Russian officials are advising residents to stay inside their homes, hang wet blankets in rooms to catch dust particles, wear masks and rinse out noses and throats as much as possible, and leave the area if suffering from a chronic lung disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For additional tips and resources, visit Visitors to Moscow and environs should check with embassy staff to learn the

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latest on the availability of flights and the advisability of other modes of transit. Photo by Todd Huffman.


About The Author

Frank Gillingham, M.D. serves as Chief Medical Director for HTH Worldwide. Frank has led HTH Worldwide's international business development efforts in Europe and Canada and has been a guest speaker at international business conferences and has authored a series of articles on travel medicine, including pieces on travel information available on the Internet and the role of physicians working with travel insurers. Frank is a Board-Certified Internist and Emergency Medicine Specialist. He is also a private emergency physician in Southern California and a former emergency department director and member of the UCLA emergency department staff. Frank completed residency training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .

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