updated 10/26/2006 5:37:18 AM ET 2006-10-26T09:37:18

A Russian region has imposed a state of emergency after more than 400 people were taken to hospital and 15 died as a result of drinking tainted alcohol, Russian television reported on Thursday.

The state of emergency was declared in the Pskov region, about 435 miles west of Moscow, but other regions across the country also reported mass outbreaks of alcohol poisoning with dozens of deaths.

Public health officials who seized alcohol on sale in the Pskov region found it contained substances usually used in medicines, Channel One television said.

The substances react dangerously when mixed with alcohol, it said. The first cases of alcohol poisoning were reported three weeks ago. Many of the people who needed medical help are suffering from liver problems.

Criminal investigation
Prosecutors in Pskov region, which is on Russia’s border with Latvia, have opened a criminal investigation for selling food products unfit for human consumption, the channel said.

Russia’s is the world’s biggest consumer of vodka, but its penchant for the drink causes major health problems.

Thousands of people died each year from the effects of excessive drinking. Bootleg vodka -- which can often contain methylated spirits and other substances to boost its alcohol content -- is especially deadly.

In cases of alcohol poisoning elsewhere in Russia, 18 people have died in the Irkutsk region of Siberia in the past few days and 70 people are being taken to hospital with the symptoms every day, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

In the Ural mountains town of Kirov, 21 people have died from acute toxic hepatitis brought on by drinking tainted alcohol, Interfax news agency reported.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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