…Other infectious disease unearthed
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shamdeo Persaud confirmed on Monday that the Chinese miners died of histoplasmosis, a fungal infection and not Swine Flu or leptospirosis.
The infection is a type of lung infection caused by inhaling histoplasma capsulatum fungal spores. These spores are found in soil and in the droppings of bats and birds in humid areas.
Dr Persaud made this disclosure during a press conference on Monday at the Public Health Ministry’s Mental Health Unit where he said the disease is not serious if confined to the lungs but can be fatal if spread throughout the body as a result of a weakened immune system.
He told the media that on April 10, 2019, the Ministry received results from Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that showed five samples were tested for histoplasmosis, four of which were positive. Also one person tested showing a weak positive hantavirus but this may have been because of past exposure to the germ.
The Ministry had previously announced that the miners were infected with leptospirosis; however, further testing at CARPHA laboratory confirmed this diagnosis was false.
Further, the Ministry currently has two workers who developed fever and they were admitted to Pakera District Hospital and are under close observation and treatment for hantavirus which is a fungal infection.
Samples were also taken from them and are presently being processed for shipment to CARPHA. He said the two miners are being kept in hospital as an extreme precautionary measure but they are recovering well.
The CMO recently returned from a visit to Matthews Ridge, Region One (Barima-Waini) where he along with workers from PAHO, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Safety Department and nine officers from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), China were part of the visiting team.
During the visit, the team met with the hospital staff, reviewed their procedures for infectious disease control and prevention and interviews were conducted with the persons who were working in the mine. Meetings were also carried out and inspections at the Pakera District Hospital and the Guyana Manganese Inc (GMI).
They carried out an evaluation of the work site and looked at some of the risk factors relating to the environment. A community meeting was also held with residents. It was discovered that the miners working in the tunnel were not properly geared in protective wear and only one of a total of 25 that were clearing the tunnel was wearing a protective mask.
Gweneth King from the Social Protection Ministry’s Occupational Health and Safety Department, said the GMI was questioned about its failure to adhere to the safety regulations, and they responded by saying that their gear was in the country but awaiting clearance by Customs; however, this has not yet been confirmed. She added that they are still in the process of compiling a report on the matter after which a full disclosure will be made on whether the company will be sanctioned.
Questions were raised about the legality of the operations by GMI however, Senior Environmental Officer at the EPA Camille Adams said while they were not aware that that specific mine was open, the GMI had permission to begin clearing the tunnel in preparation for mining. However, they hadn’t permission to commence mining and there is no evidence that any mining was done.
One of the major challenges the department faces is getting to these areas which are remote. However, all efforts are being made to garner the necessary resources in getting into these mines.
Meanwhile, the CMO added that all the miners that were hospitalised at GPHC were flown to China on April 8, 2019, and the bodies of the two deceased have been release to the Chinese Embassy for final resting arrangements to be made.