Situation in Zurich, Switzerland

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    • #4405

      Situation in Zurich, Switzerland

      As far as I can tell, the situation here in Switzerland is quite ok (at least far better than what I read from some of you and your places). The organized water distribution seems to work quite well so far – with exception of some lengthy delays of delivery in certain areas due to demonstrations that blocked some of the water trucks. Most people, however, follow the safety instructions, so a more or less “normal” life (under these circumstances) is possible. From the information we got, Switzerland seems to be quite well prepared to get through a water shortage crisis. First there are national emergency stocks of drinking water to bridge the supply of the whole population for a certain time. Then there are several emergency plans of how to get/”produce” more water after that. We should be able to bridge at least some months with this. Of course, all these are just bridging measures – the main problem to be solved is the contamination of the water.
      In general I think the Swiss government does not inform us too bad – at least not on the measures and emergency plans. What concerns the water contamination, the information is vaguer – however I have the feeling that they are lacking some information themselves…

      Apart from a general atmosphere of concern and tension, the main signs of the crisis I’ve personally seen the last day in Zurich are:
      – When I wanted to buy something yesterday evening, I found all the beverage shelves in the shop empty – sold out. (There obviously were some other panic buyings as well.)
      – There was a significantly longer queue at the ATM.
      – I noticed a higher presence of police in the city.
      – We had to make a detour to the lab, because some of the streets were blocked by demonstrations (and they also blocked parts of the water distribution – as I already mentioned).
      – Some people of my research group did not show up for work.
      – I know from friends that people from the civil/community service were called up for the water distribution and that conscripts were put on standby by the army.

      So, as I said, fortunately it’s not as bad as in some of your places, and I also hope it will not become worse.

      And here the update about the water contamination from my side – unfortunately not very much up to now:
      As I said, my boss called us to the lab for Saturday morning and we worked over the whole weekend. Unfortunately, the information we got from the national health department wasn’t really much so far – we are still waiting for more detailed information. (My boss was a bit pissed, but they said they are themselves waiting for more detailed information from the European Commission for Health and Food Safety. But in the meantime, we have been sent out to collect water samples according to a huge list of regional aquifers and waters… They seem to want to analyze every single spring now to get a nationwide picture of the current contamination situation in Switzerland. Almost all the labs (I know) that have the staff and equipment to do such analyses are involved. (Some of them were obviously already involved in this before – our group wasn’t.) So we then started with the analyses, setting up tests and bacteria cultures – at least we got the info what we are looking for / how to isolate/detect the pathogen.
      As these methods take time, we don’t have results about the current contamination ratio yet. (There are just the estimations based on selective tests that have been done earlier.) I hope we get first numbers and a more detailed picture by tomorrow evening.
      I’ll keep you updated.

    • #4414

      Thank you for the Report Lisa. I am glad to hear that things aren’t that bad in Switzerland. Sounds a bit like how things are in England.

      Hope you find something and that you can get some more information soon. Finding a solution on this problem would be great before it gets out of hand.

    • #4623

      Situation in Zurich, Switzerland – 2

      Although the official water distribution works quite well, people are going crazy doing panic buying – not only everything that’s drinkable, but also food, fuel,… Of course with drinks it’s the worst – when you are not among the first entering a shop in the morning, those shelves are always empty already (sold out). But with food and fuel it’s also getting worse. And there is also a great rush to banks and ATMs. Yesterday the authorities have decided to ration these goods: each customer is only allowed to buy a certain contingent of them. This is good! Because otherwise, few people – the rich and egoistic ones – buy huge amounts for themselves (which would not be necessary) and there is not enough for all the others. With the contingents, the distribution is fairer and the availability of the goods is longer. Well, I think the measure has to be refined even more, because now there are some people who drive from shop to shop to by multiple contingents. It’s unbelievable and sad how egoistic people are!
      My parents, who live in a village in the eastern part of Switzerland told me that they’ve seen dozens of cars from outside (some even with plates from other cantons) driving to the village shop next to their house and emptying it…
      That’s also why I will not publicly tell where I still find open shops where one can buy things. Because this will only lead to crazy and egoistic rushes with the result that those shops are emptied as well. I think (at least here in Switzerland) most people know of some shops in their environment and this is sufficient. But of course if someone of you is in the region of Zurich or St. Gallen and really in need, I am here to help – shoot me a PM and I will tell you the shops I know.

      And here the next update about the water contamination from my side:

      (Please keep in mind that these are only first/preliminary results and partly not yet verified! – which means I actually should not yet share them – but they might give you an idea and maybe some important information for some of you)

      1) Contamination ratio of waters and aquifers in Switzerland:
      From the regional water samples we (my group) analyzed, around 70% are contaminated. For surface waters, it’s more than 90%, for ground water and mountain water the numbers are a bit better, mainly when they are very deep under the ground. For whole Switzerland, the numbers seem to be similar, with higher ratios in the south and in the northwest and a bit lower ratios in the northeast of the country.
      An alarming fact is the following: Some labs have already analyzed samples of selected waters last week, and many of the samples that were tested negatively back then have become positive in the meantime. So the contamination spreads really fast! (This means a water source that is still ok today could be contaminated tomorrow.)
      A further alarming result: There were also water samples taken from Swiss glaciers (quite a big water reservoir of Switzerland) and the results show that on the surface, many of them are contaminated as well. Only most samples from deeper inside the glacier ice are uncontaminated – yet.
      It hasn’t rained here yet. So I can neither confirm nor deny that rain water is dangerous as well. However, if we are told that it is not safe, I assume there are already rain water samples somewhere that have been proven to be contaminated – so I would highly recommend NOT drinking rain water!

      2) What is this contamination? What causes the diseases?
      We cannot yet say for sure what causes the diseases, but there is a significant indication for bacteria. The contamination of the water as such is tested/evidenced by a combination of certain results from chemical and microbiological analyses.
      Under reserve of the verification by another lab, what we can say is that with molecular-biological / genetic analysis (16S rRNA gene sequencing) two unknown bacteria could be “identified” in contaminated water samples which are not present in “good” water. “identified” in quotes, because they could not be assigned to any known bacteria from the databases. One of them (B1) was/is culturable in the lab, the other one not yet. Up to now, according to different analyses and genetic similarities the two bacteria could be roughly classified as:
      B1: gram-positive rods, facultative anaerobe, producing spores
      B2: gram-negative rods, facultative anaerobe, no spores
      Both bacteria have an extraordinary high heat resistance for human pathogens: > 75°C, the spores of B1 > 140°C. => Boiling the water does not fix the contamination.
      First tests also show resistances against antibiotics, probably multi-resistances (which is also assumed due to the experiences @Juliane described), which is a bit strange, because such multi-resistances normally only show up in nosocomial pathogens (hospital-acquired bacteria) – but more analyses have to be done on the resistances.
      Furthermore, contaminated water samples contained a low concentration of an unknown toxin. It might come from one of the two bacteria. Given the severe symptoms of the disease (as described by Juliane) it is assumed that there will be more and more severe toxin formation in the host (infected people). But we have no data on that yet, as well as we also don’t know for sure yet whether one or both of the unknown bacteria is really responsible for the diseases! I think there should be more information around, because there must already have been done a lot of analyses following the contamination in other parts of the world, but nothing has been published yet and I/we don’t have them yet.
      To verify whether the disease is caused by those bacteria and also for more detailed results about virulence factors, toxins,… we need to analyze blood and tissue samples of people who became diseased.

      I’ll keep you updated.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Lisa. Reason: numbers (percentages) edited according to results of additional samples analysed
    • #4938

      Situation in Zurich, Switzerland – 3

      Sorry that it took me so long to give new information about the actual status here. My father got sick last Friday, my mother followed Saturday, like many other people of their village. They were brought to a regional hospital, which soon was crowded. It’s not completely clear yet whether they fell ill due to contaminated water (and where it came from) or another disease, but I fear the worst. As it was hell because I couldn’t do anything to help them there, I finally returned to Zurich (a difficult trip taking me more than half a day) and back to work – maybe the only thing I can do, the last hope to maybe really help them. But time is our enemy – we are not fast enough! – and I feel really bad to be here instead of with my parents. I am glad at least my brother Daniel stayed with them. However, I haven’t heard anything from him for almost two days now, and this makes me almost go insane.
      Maybe Daniel didn’t find a possibility to reach me, because
      – the prepaid credit of my phone has been used up in the meantime (and I wasn’t able to get new credit)
      – my laptop crashed. Either it caught a virus or it has been hacked. I don’t know whether this happened accidentally (just bad luck) or whether it could have something to do with my accesses to the lifedrop server.
      – I am not reachable on my landline phone anymore, because I am not at home anymore.
      But to my brother Daniel and also to my friend Jenny: I am reachable on the landline at work, and in the meantime I was also able to set up my laptop again, and you can also reach me via New Atlantis Radio!

      Yes, in the meantime, me and Marco – my soon-to-be-husband (we planned to marry next year) and at the same time workmate – left our flat and moved to the lab. It has become quite difficult and very time-consuming to cover the distance to work and back home – it took us hours every day. So we brought a camp bed and some other stuff most needed. And this way we can work more. And there’s more need for that than ever, because while some of our colleagues did the same, others didn’t show up for work anymore – our group has significantly diminished.

      Update about the situation in Switzerland (partly witnessed by myself in Zurich, partly official news, partly news from friends, partly rumors):

      When the E.U. suspended (public and private) transport last week, Switzerland (as non-E.U. country) decided to not (yet) follow this resolution. The consequence was a big chaos of private transport, because obviously everyone wanted to take the last chance to do important drives as long as it was still possible. Streets and roads were jammed and blocked, and series of car accidents made it even worse – transport virtually collapsed. The day after, the Swiss government also suspended private transport, while public transport was still allowed. The latter, however, did not run reliably anymore, because many people working in the public transport section did not show up at work anymore (caring about their own business instead); and it became worse from day to day, from only sporadically operative to almost nothing left by now. In the meantime, many people do not care about the suspension anymore and use their private vehicles again (if they still have fuel left), but many roads are already blocked and with new accidents they block even more of them. As far as I heard, all the transit tunnels through the Alps (e.g. the Gotthard tunnel) have been blocked by accidents, fire and poisonous gases making any transit impossible.

      Shops, gas stations, banks, offices:
      – Many shops are closed or empty (at least in Zurich). It’s more and more difficult to find what one needs.
      – It is difficult to get fuel (at least in Zurich). Many gas stations are closed.
      – There are only few banks which still open for limited periods – under massive presence of security forces. ATMs are empty.
      – Most offices are closed. Availability and operativeness of infrastructure is decreasing from day to day.

      – There are more (and more violent) demonstrations and riots. I see them every day in Zurich, sometimes they even hinder water distribution or people going to important work.
      – Housebreakings and raids have dramatically increased, especially in the cities and near the national borders. Someone broke in “our” shop, and yesterday I witnessed a raid on a water transport – it’s scary.
      – Switzerland closed the borders. However there are always people who manage to cross them somehow nevertheless.
      – Lots of soldiers have been mobilized to support the police, help with and protect water distribution, clear blocked roads, support the border protection, etc. But many did not follow the draft, like many people stopped going to work in general (but trying to care for themselves and their families instead). There are too few security forces and they are unable to cope with everything they should.

      – The official water distribution does not work smoothly anymore. Many people are not reached by this anymore, and there are more and more raids.
      – Most shops don’t have water or other drinkable things anymore (at least in Zurich). Maybe in the countryside or in the mountains (where not too many people went yet) it is better.
      – Currently, we’ve run out of water in the lab as well. We need to get some as soon as possible.
      – We’ve managed to test some more water samples of the previously (in the last test) uncontaminated waters and aquifers. (We didn’t take the effort of testing the contaminated waters again, but limited our forces to the (previously) clean ones.) The ratio of contaminated waters and aquifers in Switzerland has risen to 90% (effective 2 days ago).
      – It’s difficult and very time-consuming to continue with the testing of safe water, because most of them are far away in the Alps and, therefore, difficult to reach these days.

      Status update on the disease/bacteria:
      – The hospitals are full. They can’t handle all the patients anymore. Many have died in the meantime, and the numbers are increasing every day.
      – In our research group, we are doing less water sample testing now but moved the focus and our resources to the analyses of the potential pathogen.
      – Recent results indicate that bacterium B2 (see previous post) seems to be not pathogen. (It also doesn’t show up in all water samples of other countries.) So we mainly concentrate on bacterium B1 (see previous post).
      – We detected bacteria B1 as well as at least two unknown toxins in blood and tissue samples of diseased persons.
      – Bacteria B1 are highly virulent: They are able to multiply in human blood and tissue and are able to build pore-forming toxins (which damage cells of the infected body).
      – It is not yet known how exactly the toxins of B1 act.
      – We can confirm multi-resistance against antibiotics. Also none of the tested antibiotics combinations showed positive effects so far.

      I hate this bacterium! But I think I hate people even more!
      Yes, the water contamination and the disease hit us hard, but it’s the stupidity and egoism of people that makes our system collapse right now. We had infrastructure, emergency stocks and emergency plans to bridge at least 3 months – if people would cooperate and follow the instructions… but people don’t. They think of nothing but themselves and don’t care about the others.
      The instructions said: don’t do panic buying, don’t do bank runs, wait for and don’t hinder the water distribution, try to keep private transport and phone calls low, try to continue going to work as far as possible,…
      And what did people do? Panic buying, bank runs, disturb, hinder and raid water distribution, drive around like crazy, do phone calls excessively, stay away from work, steal, break-in, forage, rob,…
      Leading to empty shops and gas stations and food and fuel shortage for others, empty banks and shortness of money for others, blocked roads and impassable tunnels, overload and breakdown of communication networks, closed offices and breakdown of infrastructure, collapse of the system, anarchy, violence,…
      I hate people!
      EDIT: Not all. Not those who try to help (like probably most of you). But those who are responsible for or contribute to all this shit!

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Lisa. Reason: Finally getting some water made me calm down a bit and think about it again, and I felt I should maybe add something
    • #4969

      My parents are dead. They already died 2 days ago, but my brother wasn’t able to reach me.
      I now have to decide whether to try to make my way back to them to take a leave of them or whether to stay here and finish the tests that might help those who are still alive.

    • #4970

      Most people here have gone… or died. There are only very few of us left in the lab. Work conditions have become very difficult. And I don’t know what we would do without my brother, who supplies us with water from time to time. I don’t know where he gets it from – and I am not sure if I want to know.
      I will not go to that place in Italy. I will stay here and continue. I don’t know how long we will be able to continue. But we must not give up! We have some results that give us hope. There is a chance that we get this bacterium cracked!

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