A mysterious illness, featuring flu-like symptoms, is sweeping across two of Turkmenistan's most populous regions, Ashgabat and Dashoguz. Some health care professionals quietly link the outbreak to cotton cultivation, which requires the heavy use of defoliants, pesticides and other toxic agents.
Ashgabat residents report that the disease -- the symptoms of which are headaches, a stuffed-up nose, a hacking cough and runny eyes -- struck suddenly around the start of September. "I noticed that all of a sudden all our family members fell ill almost at the same time," said one resident of Turkmen capital.
"At first I thought it was an infection, and we contracted the disease from one another. Our doctor prescribed antibiotics which we took for a week," the resident continued. "However, we didn't feel any better, all the symptoms were the same, though people who have the flu or a cold usually show signs of recovery in 3-4 days. In addition, schoolchildren, the kids of my acquaintances, and our neighbors
Aisha Berdyeva is a pseudonym for a Central Asia-based reporter who specializes in political and economic developments.