All new is well-forgotten old. It was the principle that the Russians were guided by when creating a fake. In this case, they combined the old thesis of “underfunding Ukrainian medicine,” the new SARS-CoV-2 strain, the threat of measles outbreaks, and recent news of a hepatitis A outbreak in Vinnytsia. They tied this whole set together with distorted or outright false facts. In this way, Russian resources sought to intimidate Ukrainian society, claiming that a series of epidemics would start due to cuts in healthcare spending in Ukraine.
With the support of the USAID Health Reform Support project, VoxCheck analyzes and refutes public health narratives spread in the information space of Ukraine, Belarus, and russia on a weekly basis.
Information is being spread online, claiming that the reduction of healthcare funding during wartime will lead to a series of epidemics in Ukraine. The authors of the post specifically point out that outbreaks of hepatitis A are already occurring in five regions of Ukraine, and in Rivne, the first case of the new coronavirus strain “Pirola” has been registered. The post also quotes the General Director of the Kyiv City Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Serhii Chumak, stating that there is a high likelihood of a measles outbreak in Ukraine in 2023.
What’s the reality?
In the post, the authors resort to manipulation and outright falsehood. On November 9, 2023, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the state budget for 2024. For healthcare, they allocated 202 billion UAH, which is approximately 24 billion UAH more than the current year. Taking into account the projected inflation of 9.7%, the real increase will be 5.8 billion UAH.
Additionally, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine has reported that the outbreak of hepatitis A in Vinnytsia has been identified as an emergency situation at the regional level; there is no mention of an epidemic. As of November 9, 261 laboratory-confirmed cases have been recorded in Vinnytsia Oblast, with 194 patients already discharged. According to the latest available information, isolated cases have also been registered in Ternopil (1 case), Zakarpattia (11 cases), Dnipropetrovsk (3 cases), and Ivano-Frankivsk (12 cases in October) regions. Specialists have initiated epidemiological investigations in all regions, and doctors recommend vaccination to prevent infection.
An outbreak of an infectious disease is defined when several cases of infection with the same infectious disease are detected, linked by a common source and/or transmission factor.
Cases of hepatitis A are recorded annually in Ukraine; it is a seasonal illness that typically spreads during the cold months of the year. The disease is usually transmitted through unwashed hands or the use/consumption of contaminated water. According to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, in 2022, 281 cases were recorded, and in the first 9 months of 2023, there were 314 cases of the illness.
The announcement of the spread of COVID-19 due to purported insufficient funding is also manipulative. This is because this strain of the coronavirus was first identified in Israel, then in the USA, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. These countries have a high level of medical care and allocate significant amounts to this sector, so the issue is not about funding. New strains of SARS-CoV-2 emerge through mutation. The more people the virus infects, the higher the risk of changing the genome of the original virus, i.e., mutations. This feature is common to many viruses, including the flu. Therefore, doctors recommend getting a new vaccine against this disease every year. At the same time, there are still far fewer strains of SARS-CoV-2 than there are flu strains.
Ukrainian experts, thanks to the sequencing method (a laboratory investigation that allows the detection of mutations in the virus genome), were still able to identify this strain of the virus, demonstrating their expertise. At the time of writing this article, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine reported one case of infection with this strain.
Serhii Chumak did indeed mention the possibility of a measles outbreak in Ukraine, as this disease follows a cyclical pattern, with recent outbreaks recorded in 2018-2019. In the first nine months of 2023, 46 people in Ukraine contracted measles, which is four times more cases than reported for the entire year of 2022. The risk of an outbreak is not associated with a lack of funding or doctors but with a low level of measles vaccination. More details on this were covered in our previous issue.
This information piece was produced with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided on behalf of the people of the United States of America. This article’s content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government, is the sole responsibility of Deloitte Consulting under contract #72012118C00001.
The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations