The Federal Ministry of Health yesterday confirmed an outbreak of lead poisoning in Rafi Local Council of Niger State which has so far claimed 28 lives from about 65 confirmed cases.
The outbreak is said to be spreading to other localities in the state and neighbouring Kaduna state. All the deaths were of children below the age of 5 and made up of 17 females and 11 males. High serum of leads levels , 17-22 times higher than the acceptable limits established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is said to have been responsible for the deaths .
Already, mining activities have been suspended in the affected areas. The findings also revealed a serious impact on livestock with cows, goats and chickens most affected.
Minister of State for Health, Fidelis Nwankwo, who briefed newsmen on the development yesterday, said: “The devastating impact of this outbreak is associated with new mining sites which were found to contain more leaded ores which are often brought home for crushing and processing.”
Making relevance to how Nigeria tackled the Ebola outbreak, Nwankwo said: “This is another battle that must be won.” He stressed however that lead poisoning is not contagious and is amenable to effective and sustainable control, provided safer and healthier mining practises are imbibed.
He urged the public not to panic, calling on miners to abide by the extant mining regulations and emerging guidelines that would be released from time to time by the government.
He listed actions taken to far to include: advocacy meetings with community leaders and youth groups; conducting health education in the communities and sensitizing them on the dangers of their economic activities involving mining, crushing and the processing of ore; sharing with the communities and miners health and mining safety precautions through health talks and film-shows in the local languages.
He said the emergency team had commenced non-specific, palliative treatment of the sick children, while local council and state teams have been mobilized and participate fully in response to the outbreak.
The Minister noted that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the Ministry had commenced the process of establishing incident command structures to enhance routine coordination of the outbreak response.
He noted that health facilities in Niger and Zamfara states had been mobilized to commence treatment of the clinically ill children in collaboration with Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Federal Medical Centre, Gusau.
Published: May 14, 2015. By Emeka Anuforo
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