Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:52:52 +0200 By Marielle VITUREAU
Vilnius, Aug 29, 2017 (AFP) - Behind a heavy wooden door next to a Vilnius church, a couple of dozen Lithuanian men are talking about their dependence on alcohol. The moderator is Kestutis Dvareckas, a priest and a decade sober. The World Health Organization ranks Lithuanians as the world's heaviest drinkers. WHO estimates published in May pegged average annual consumption at 18.2 litres (4.8 gallons) of pure alcohol per person in 2016, putting the small EU Baltic state ahead of Belarus, Moldova and Russia. "Drinking on the job had been tolerated on various occasions since the Soviet era. Today, you still see alcohol at baptisms and burials," Father Dvareckas, 37, told AFP.
Rather than being social, drinking on these occasions is often excessive to the point of passing out. Poor mental health and coping skills play a role, especially among Lithuanian men. WHO statistics from 2014 show that 16.7 percent of them abused alcohol or were dependent on it. Largely at fault is "Lithuanian pessimism", according to Visvaldas Legkauskas, a psychologist at Vytautas Magnus University in the central city of Kaunas. "Life isn't too bad here, but we have this character trait and we drown our sorrows in alcohol or we commit suicide," he told AFP.
- Curbing consumption - Dvareckas says he managed to quit drinking and get his life back thanks to a 12-step programme similar to the one used by Alcoholics Anonymous and the support of friends and family. Wanting to pass on what he learnt, he created the free programme As Esu ("I am" in Lithuanian) in 2009, whose combination of group meetings, prayer, therapy and work opportunities help alcoholics get back on their feet. An association created this year forged a network allowing 20 such communities to share resources. Other initiatives such as Alcoholics Anonymous are also afoot.
Burdened by the high social costs of heavy drinking, the government is taking action to curb consumption, including tax hikes and a blanket ban on alcohol advertising. Fighting alcoholism was among the key campaign promises that gave the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens Union (LPGU) a surprise victory in 2016 elections. Its leader has been organising a booze-free cultural festival in his village for a decade. Although parliament raised the tax on alcohol in March, consumption did not fall in the eurozone state of nearly three million residents. Lawmakers then voted by a large margin in June to raise the legal drinking age to 20 from 18 and introduce a blanket ban on alcohol ads next year. Whether these measures will work is another matter. "Already back in 1998, Lithuania had adopted a strategy to curb consumption by 25 percent. But the reality is that it went up by 130 percent instead," Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga told AFP.
- Medical care - For Father Dvareckas, the new legislation is not enough: "Why do I still have to pass the alcohol shelf at stores before reaching the one with dairy products?" At a local store in the village of Semeliskes, located 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Vilnius, a saleswoman named Ona is sceptical. "Prices may have gone up, but no one really cares. People will continue to buy as long as they have money, and they'll buy five bottles instead of one to make sure they're stocked," she told AFP. Many believe that to really be effective, the restrictions affecting sales must be coupled with other forms of help. Medical treatment of alcoholics is still spotty in Lithuania, where the necessary medication is not paid for by the state, according to the national health insurance fund. There are only five state-run alcohol rehab centres across Lithuania. For Veryga, the health minister, it is critical "to ensure equal access to everyone concerned in the various regions".
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2017 20:28:08 +0200
Vilnius, June 1, 2017 (AFP) - Lithuania on Thursday banned alcohol advertising and raised the legal drinking age to 20 from 18 as part of efforts to curb consumption in one of the world's hardest-drinking nations. The measures, which also include a ban on alcohol sales between 8pm to 10am, were approved by 101 lawmakers in the 141-seat parliament. Ten MPs were opposed, and another ten abstained.
The blanket ban on alcohol ads, which includes billboards, TV, radio, the printed press and the internet, will come into force on January 1, 2018. Fighting alcoholism was among the key campaign promises that gave the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens Union (LPGU) a surprise victory in elections last October. LPGU party chairman Ramunas Karbauskis said the EU nation of some 2.8 million people was taking its cue from several Nordic countries that have strict rules on alcohol sales. "We need changes so that fewer people become dependent on alcohol and kids are not affected by this industry," Karbauskis said Thursday.
The average Lithuanian over the age of 15 consumed the equivalent of 13.2 litres of pure alcohol last year, the country's statistics agency reported this week, down by nearly a litre per person compared with a year ago. But Gauden Galea, a senior World Health Organization official, last month pegged average annual consumption at 16 litres per person, making Lithuanians the world's "top" drinkers, according to the Baltic News Service. Critics said the measures were unlikely to be effective. "We're preventing adults from buying alcohol and we think that this will solve all social ills. This is a short-sighted approach," said liberal lawmaker Ausrine Armonaite.
An emergency has been declared in Vilnius [Lithuania] after _Legionella_ bacteria were found in the water systems of several apartment buildings in the Lithuanian capital. The Emergency Commission at the Vilnius local authority stated on [Fri 10 Mar 2017] that the situation met the criteria for an emergency, Arvydas Darulis, acting director of the city's administration, told BNS [Baltic News Service].
"We have 2 deaths and a 3rd incident is still under investigation. This affects over 500 people because there are 3 buildings and it takes more than 24 hours to eliminate (the emergency situation). Based on these criteria, an emergency situation has been declared," he said. According to the official, the commission has activated an emergency operations centre to handle the emergency.
The National Public Health Service said that samples from 2 apartment blocks in the Zirmunai neighborhood, at Tuskulenu 5, and Ladygos 3, had tested positive for the bacteria that cause legionnaires' disease and samples from an apartment block in the Lazdynai neighborhood were still being tested. To date, 2 residents of these buildings have died of legionnaires' disease and a 3rd is being treated. [Byline: Donata Motuzaite] ================== [ProMED-mail thanks Denis Green for his continued contributions. Genotyping clinical and environmental _Legionella_ isolates will help establish transmission pathways: a common source would be presumed for cases that have matching of _Legionella_ genotypes; and a source for these cases with matching genotypes would be confirmed if the clinical genotype matches an environmental genotype.
VILNIUS, Jan 27, 2014 (AFP) - Lithuania said Monday it plans a mass cull of its wild boars due to an outbreak of African swine fever after neighbours banned pork import from the Baltic EU state. "The goal is to leave up to 10 percent of the current 60,000-strong (wild boar) population to prevent the virus from spreading," said Jurgita Savickaite, spokeswoman for the Food and Veterinary Service. Non-EU neighbours Russia and Belarus banned pork products from Lithuania that are not processed thermally after the virus was detected in the country last week, she told AFP.
Lithuania's government is expected on Wednesday to officially declare a state of emergency in regions bordering Belarus, which it claims was the source of the virus. All wild boars hunted in these regions -- all close to EU neighbour Poland -- will be incinerated if tests show they carry the virus, which is harmless to humans but lethal to pigs and has no known cure.
Lithuania also imposed a temporary ban on the shipping of live pigs out of the affected areas, fearing the virus could spread to local farms. Interior Minister Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas said the government will also turn to the EU Commission asking to finance a fence along Belarus' border to prevent the movement of boars. [There is a potential risk that some of this boar meat may turn up in the human food chain. This could present a risk of exposure to infection with trichinosis. - GCF TMB Mod]
Lithuania said Monday [27 Jan 2014] it plans a mass cull of its wild boars due to an outbreak of African swine fever [ASF] after neighbours banned pork imports from the Baltic EU state.
"The goal is to leave up to 10 percent of the current 60,000-strong (wild boar) population to prevent the virus from spreading," said Jurgita Savickaite, spokeswoman for the Food and Veterinary Service.
Non-EU neighbours Russia and Belarus banned pork products from Lithuania that are not processed thermally after the virus was detected in the country last week, she told news sources.
Lithuania's government is expected on Wednesday [29 Jan 2014] to officially declare a state of emergency in regions bordering Belarus, which it claims was the source of the virus.
All wild boars hunted in these regions, all close to EU neighbour Poland, will be incinerated if tests show they carry the virus, which is harmless to humans but lethal to pigs and has no known cure.
Lithuania also imposed a temporary ban on the shipping of live pigs out of the affected areas, fearing the virus could spread to local farms.
Interior Minister Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas said the government will also turn to the EU Commission asking to finance a fence along Belarus' border to prevent the movement of boars.
[The introduction of ASF into Lithuania, with the potential of continuing its spread, was, in fact, written on the wall, since ASF spread throughout the western parts of the Russian Federation. ASF introduction into an EU Member State necessitates intra-community measures to prevent its further spread. The updated measures to be applied in such a scenario have been included in the recently (14 Jan 2014) published EC working document SANCO/7138/2013, titled: "Guidelines on surveillance and control of African swine fever in feral pigs and preventive measures for pig holdings;" see at <http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/controlmeasures/docs/sanco_7138_2013_asf_wb_en.pdf>. - ProMed Mod.AS]