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Lead Poisoning reduced with Safer Mining Practices in Nigeria

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A pilot program to introduce safer mining practices in Nigerian gold mining communities has reduced blood lead levels by 32% according to a study published today. This is the first study to report on a successful intervention to reduce lead exposures among artisanal miners in communities were hundreds of children have died from lead poisoning from the high levels of lead present in the gold ore.

“This is an extraordinary achievement demonstrating that it is possible to significantly reduce lead exposures among highly exposed informal miners with simple safer mining practices,” said Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director of Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) whose organization partnered with Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in this effort.

“These results exceeded expectations and are comparable to what large scale lead-industries strive to achieve with millions of dollars in investment over multiple years,” Gottesfeld added.

The organizations involved demonstrated that working cooperatively with miners and the community could result in significant health improvements with a relatively small investment that would not impact the long-term economics of these mining operations. In addition to training thousands of miners, they worked to put in place hand washing stations, change areas, and separate eating areas to reduce exposures.

The safer mining project took place in the Shikira community in Niger State. A bore well was installed to provide wet spray misting to lower airborne lead levels at the ore processing site serving this community. The group reported earlier this year that that these control measures reduced airborne lead exposures by 95%.

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Blood lead levels are considered the best measure of exposure. The organization tracked quarterly blood lead levels of a representative group of 58 miners over 19 months.  The study also found that women miners had higher lead levels and experienced lower reductions than men (23% vs. 36%). The study “Declining blood lead levels among small-scale miners participating in a safer mining pilot programme in Nigeria” was published in the British Medical Journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Philip Aruna, Head of Mission in Nigeria for Doctors Without Borders said “We showed that by working cooperatively with the entire community we can bring significant reductions in lead exposures.”

Gottesfeld noted that, “Following our extensive outreach and training, the miners were motivated to take measures to reduce hazardous lead exposures and invested their own time and money to implement these protective measures.”

Lead causes severe neurological deficits and death among children in these communities, but even at low exposure levels is responsible for 674,000 deaths each year primarily due to cardiovascular disease. Investments in safer mining to reduce lead exposures would have a significant return on investment compared to the costs of treating severe lead poisoning in these communities.

There are an estimated 40 million informal small-scale miners working in at least 70 countries around the world.  In addition to artisanal gold mining, informal lead mining accounts for an increasing share of the global lead supply.

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Karla Bil, with Doctors Without Borders and an author of the study said that “Our pilot project demonstrated that safer mining practices are feasible, cost effective and can greatly improve health outcomes in mining communities impacted by severe lead poisoning.”

She added that “there is an immediate need for the Nigerian government to invest in safer mining practices throughout impacted communities in Northern Nigeria to apply these measures to improve health and reduce childhood lead poisoning.”

In addition to introducing wet methods, OK International focused on training miners to reduce community exposures by implementing simple measures including handwashing, showering, setting up separate eating areas, and changing out of work clothing before going home at the end of the day. The overall cost for capital improvements for this community was approximately $5,000.

 

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Health

138 NYSC members test positive for COVID-19, NCDC reveals

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No fewer than than 138 members of the National Youth Service  Corps (NYSC) had so far tested positive for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and have been isolated, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed.

NCDC also revealed that 34,685 people have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) across all the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps in the country.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known on Monday at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Dr. Ihekweazu added that those whose samples were collected included corps members and NYSC officials in various camps.

“We tested over the last few weeks a total, so far, of 34,785 people of which we found a total of 138 positive only.

“So, we have a total prevalence of 0.4 per cent; in fact, about one in 200 new people coming into the camps turned out to be positive.

“None of them were allowed into the camp; all of them were excluded and either managed at home or the treatment centre depending on if they had symptoms and what state they were in,” the NCDC boss added.

He also spoke about the progress made so far in the area of vaccination against the disease, noting that four vaccines had already been announced.

Dr Ihekweazu stated that while these have brought excitement, there were lots to consider to guide decisions on which to go for when they became available.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who also briefed reporters, gave an update on COVID-19 infections, treatment, and fatalities.

He was that Nigeria was by no means out of the woods yet and urged the people to present themselves for testing.

Dr Ehanire said the PTF would continue to keep vigilance as COVID-19 cases surge in other parts of the world.

He gave an assurance that the ministry was taking measures to ensure that vaccine security was sure once they were available for the public.

The minister also disclosed that it has been confirmed that the strange deaths in Delta and some other states were as a result of yellow fever.

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Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine Shows 95% Effectiveness – Pfizer, BioNTech

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Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that a completed study of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine showed it was 95 percent effective.

They said the two-dose vaccine had no serious safety concerns and that the companies will apply for emergency use authorization from US regulators “within days.”

The announcement came as coronavirus cases are surging in the US and other parts of the world, and boosted hopes for an end to the pandemic that has upended life around the globe.

“The study results mark an important step in this historic eight-month journey to bring forward a vaccine capable of helping to end this devastating pandemic,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

“With hundreds of thousands of people around the globe infected every day, we urgently need to get a safe and effective vaccine to the world,” he added.

Pfizer had said last week after a preliminary analysis that its product was more than 90 percent effective.

On Monday another biotech firm involved in the race to develop a vaccine, Moderna, said its own vaccine was 94.5 percent effective, according to a preliminary analysis.

Pfizer has previously said it expected to contact the US Food and Drug Administration to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization by the third week of November.

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The FDA had imposed a requirement on Covid-19 vaccine makers of having at least two months of follow-up with volunteers after their second dose, taken 28 days after the first, in order to ensure the drugs are safe.

Moderna developed its vaccine along with the US National Institutes for Health.

Both vaccines use mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) technology to deliver genetic material to the body that makes human cells create a protein from the virus.

This trains the immune system to be ready to attack if it encounters SARS-CoV-2.

Other vaccines that are in late-stage trials, such as one being developed by Johnson & Johnson and another by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, use modified viruses to deliver genetic material for the same purpose.

No mRNA vaccines have ever been approved, but Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease scientist, told AFP Tuesday the technology had now “established itself.”

-AFP

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Oyo govt. denies cholera outbreak in community

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Oyo State Government on Wednesday denied reports of alleged cholera outbreak  in Lagun Village of Lagelu Local Government Area of the state, declaring that there is no evidence to back recent claims.

According to a report of the Ministry  of Health’s technical committee that investigated the matter, signed by the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Bashir Bello, the claims of cholera outbreak were unfounded.

The report, titled “Re: Rumours of suspected cholera outbreak in Lagelu LGA of Oyo State,” revealed that investigations by the state’s Epidemiological Team, including the DSNO and LGA Teams in Lagelu and surrounding LGAs, showed there is no evidence to back such rumour.

Dr. Bello in a statement issued by Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, added  that the team dispatched to carry out the investigation, was also not shown any fresh grave or fresh burial ground to ascertain claims of mass death.

The statement stated, however, that the Ministry had placed pre-positioned antibiotics and intravenous fluids at the state’s health facility in Lagun to prevent an outbreak of cholera in the area.

The Commissioner further  disclosed that the state has also begun an active case search in affected communities and neighbouring states as well as community engagement and enlightenment on the prevention of diarrheal diseases including cholera.

He explained that findings from the field showed that the ailment recorded affected only four individuals and not 10 people as claimed in the media and that there was no evidence to back the claim of six deaths.

He maintained that the ailment could be ascribed to poor hygienic conditions, adding that the Ministry also suspected cases of gastroenteritis or likely food poisoning.

The report stated: “The Ministry of Health received reports of suspected cases of cholera in Lagun Village on Friday, 6th of November, 2020. Following the notification, the state and the LGA surveillance network began intensified action at investigation and response, and findings from the field investigation are as follow:

“Ten (10) cases of diarrhoea and vomiting were reported to have occurred in Lagun Village by members of the community. Six of the cases were said to have died.

“But, upon investigation, no freshly dug graves were found in the said community and we only found two cases at Faith Clinic, Ejioku, and another two cases at the Lagun Rehabilitation Centre both private hospitals.

“All four cases are alive and are no longer stooling, therefore, stool samples could not be collected from them for confirmation of the aetiological agent (causative), while they have also been treated and stabilised.

“We observed poor sanitary conditions in the village, as the wells were not covered and were in poor sanitary conditions.

“We hereby confirm that with the active efforts of the state epidemiologist and his team (DNSO, LGA Team in the affected LGA and neighbouring LGAs), no real death attributable to cholera had been confirmed.

“The reported deaths were neither seen nor traceable and, therefore, cannot be attributed to cholera outbreak, as no patient within the community actually reported to any government or local government facility in the said local government.

“The ailment recorded (and deaths, if any) could be ascribed to very poor hygienic conditions and we suspect cases of gastroenteritis or likely food poisoning in the affected community.”

Speaking on preventive steps already taken by the Ministry, Bello added: “We have pre-positioned antibiotics and intravenous fluids at the General Hospital, Lagun, for care of emerging cases. 

“The Ministry has also embarked on community engagement and enlightenment on prevention of diarrheal diseases including cholera.

“We have also embarked on active search in affected communities and neighbouring communities and have also alerted the neighbouring local government areas.”

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