Guarding your health in Russian city

Travel Q&A


Is amoebic dysentery a problem in St. Petersburg? Is it advisable to take bottled water?

It is bacterial dysentery, not the amoebic form, that is present in St. Petersburg's tap water. The primary symptom, is, however, essentially the same: debilitating diarrhea. During the first four months of 1996 Russian government epidemic watchers counted 826 cases in St. Petersburg. This is a considerable drop from the first third of last year and the preceding year, but experts still advise travelers to drink bottled water in St. Petersburg, unless their hotel filters its own water supply. Visitors should also be wary of salads or fruits that may have been washed in tap water. Doctors at the American Medical Center in St. Petersburg suggest that bottled, boiled or filtered water be used for brushing teeth. Bottled water is easily found in St. Petersburg's kiosks and supermarkets.

Other diseases you should be aware of when traveling in St. Petersburg (and all of Russia) include hepatitis A, which can be passed through contaminated food, water and human contact. In recent years, diphtheria, a potentially fatal flu-like ailment that can be picked up through the air, on surfaces or through water, has generated concern.

According to the State Control Committee on Sanitation and Epidemics, the disease, which had been on the rise ever since mass immunization programs fell apart after the Soviet Union's disintegration, appears to be decreasing in St. Petersburg, largely due to increased vaccinations. Still, travelers should make sure their diphtheria booster shots are up to date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, at (404) 332-4559, can provide basic information -- either by phone recording or by fax -- on disease problems in Russia.

Where can I study Catalan in Barcelona or elsewhere in Catalonia this August?

Most public institutions take a vacation break in August, so your options are limited essentially to private schools.

In Barcelona, the Catalan capital, Berlitz, (34-3) 215-0100, offers a 60-hour beginner's course with a private tutor for about $1,500, or $25 an hour. Another school, Barna House, (34-3) 488-0080, charges $31 an hour for a private tutor, and suggests at least 80 hours of study for a beginner to achieve an intermediate level.

Barna House also may offer 40-hour courses in August for $265, if enough students register. The Centro Superior de Idiomas, (34-3) 217-6766, will offer group classes in August if enough students sign up. Classes would total 48 hours over three weeks and cost $388. The Centro also has private tutors, for $30 an hour.

In September, the Catalan government's language office in Barcelona, known in Catalan as the Consorci per a la Normalitzacio Linguistica, (34-3) 412-5500, sponsors courses in 22 larger towns throughout the four provinces of Catalonia. The University of Barcelona's Catalan language department, (34-3) 318-4266, Ext. 2506, offers an 80-hour beginner's course from Sept. 2 to Oct. 2, for $289. Students must register by Sept. 1. But people calling the public institutions should do so before 2 p.m. weekdays, and English-speaking personnel are not likely to be staffing the phones.

Other Barcelona institutions you might check with are the Escola Oficial d'Idiomes, (34-3) 329 2458, and the Brighton European Institute of Languages, (34-3) 215 2100. An organization in the United States that may be helpful is the Milwaukee-based National Registration Center for Study Abroad, (414) 278-0631. This is a private enterprise that registers students for foreign language classes in programs it represents.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

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