Symptoms of Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome emerge in 2 educators on hunger strike

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Nuriye Gülmen

Early symptoms of Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1, have begun to manifest in two educators who are in the 63rd day of a hunger strike they launched in protest of their dismissal from their jobs, according to a statement from Vedat Bulut of the Ankara Chamber of Doctors.

A university academic and a primary school teacher who were removed from their posts by government decrees in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 began a hunger strike on March 10 in a bid to be allowed to return to their jobs.

The hunger strike, begun by academic Nuriye Gülmen and primary school teacher Semih Özakça, has reached a critical point, with Bulut saying at a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday that early symptoms of WKS have begun to appear in the two academics, which could eventually lead to their deaths if not treated.

According to Bulut, the state of health of both Gülmen and Özakça is deteriorating with every passing day, pulse irregularities have begun to be detected and they have become more vulnerable to illness.

“Some 10-15 percent of these [WKS] patients lose their lives, while 77 percent of them die later due to infection,” he said.

Bulut also said doctors from the chamber began the necessary examinations of Gülmen and Özakça and reminded them of the guidelines that should be abided by during a hunger strike.
He said the educators were advised to drink one liter of water, have five tablespoons of sugar, two teaspoons of salt and vitamin B1 tablets every day.

Gülmen and Özakça, who weighed 59 and 86 kilograms, respectively, before the hunger strike, now weigh 50 and 69 kilograms.

Bulut also said both Gülmen and Özakça have refused medical intervention if they lose consciousness.

“They said they hope their deaths will serve as a hope for the tens of thousands of people who have unjustly and unlawfully been dismissed from their jobs through government decrees,” added Bulut.

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