Federal Government yesterday disclosed that new cases of lead poisoning have been recorded in Niger State.
Through the Minister of State for Health, Mr. Fidelis Nwankwo, the government hinted that 65 cases were recorded with 28 deaths from lead poisoning outbreak in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger state as at May 12, 2015.
He told journalists in Abuja that report of the outbreak was brought to the notice of the ministry on May 7 by the Niger State Ministry of Health, adding that it had spread to neighbouring communities in the state and Kaduna State.
Nwankwo said that upon receiving the information, the Federal Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of Mines and Steel raised a technical team which visited Niger State for a scoping mission to verify the occurrence of the outbreak, its causative agents, magnitude and dimensions and come up with recommendations.
He explained that the eight-man team confirmed the occurrence of lead poisoning outbreak, adding that it affected more are children below the age of five years.
The minister noted that the children were found to have serum lead levels higher than the limits established by the World Health Organisation, WHO. The findings also revealed that there is serious impact on livestock with goats, chicken and cows mostly affected.
Nwankwo also said that the impact of the outbreak was due to a new mining site found to contain more leaded ores which were often brought home for crushing and processing.
While he advised Nigerians not to panic on the outbreak, he said that actions had been taken to curb the incident.
Some of the steps taken by the government included advocacy meetings with community leaders and youth groups, conducting health education in the communities visited and sensitising them on the dangers of the economic activities involving mining, crushing and processing of ore.
Others are sharing with the communities and miners health and mining safety precautions through health talks and film shows in the local languages and non-palliative treatment of the sick children in Kagara hospital.
The minister also disclosed that his ministry and the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, had commenced the process of establishing incident command structure to enhance routine coordination of the outbreak response and mobilisation of health facilities in Niger and Zamfara states to begin chelation of clinically ill children in collaboration with the Medicines Sans Frontiers, MSF.
He charged miners to adhere to the operational rules and allayed the fears that lead poisoning is contagious.