According to the Russian Federal Service for Consumer Protection (FSCP), 360 people became ill after drinking holy water during an Epiphany celebration in Siberia. The sickened people have been diagnosed with rotavirus gastroenteritis.

During the January Epiphany celebration, as a tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, water blessed by a local Church priest collected from a local lagoon was drunken by parishioners in honor of the baptism of Christ. It is believed that the “holy water” has certain curative and strengthening powers.

The water from the lagoon was found to be stagnant and contaminated according to the Sanitation department in the city of Irkutsk, Siberia. The water was tested for rotavirus antigens and found to be positive.

According to Russian press, all affected persons are responding to treatment with nearly 150 people already fully recovered.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among children, resulting in the hospitalization of approximately 55,000 children each year in the United States and the death of over 600,000 children annually worldwide. The incubation period for rotavirus disease is approximately 2 days.

The disease is characterized by vomiting and watery diarrhea for 3 – 8 days, and fever and abdominal pain occur frequently. Immunity after infection is incomplete, but repeat infections tend to be less severe than the original infection.