‘Critically ill’ manganese miners to be flown to China

Critically ill Chinese nationals who are being treated after falling ill at the Guyana Manganese Inc. (GMI) Matthews Ridge, Region One operation, should be leaving for China on Monday, following a request from the Chinese government.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge told Sunday Stabroek yesterday that his ministry received a request to facilitate the return of the critically ill to China.

“They are in consultation with the Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs and Citizenship to facilitate the process. The medicos would have to consult and agree that transportation is possible but overall permission for the arrangement will have to be granted by Foreign Affairs,” the minister explained.

Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Public Health, Terrence Esseboom, further confirmed that medical approval has been granted and the men are set to travel tomorrow.

“I’m not sure of the number. It’s between 10 and 12; about a dozen. Those who are critically ill,” he said.

Greenidge also indicated that there is a Chinese medical team which is currently involved in the treatment of the patients.

Last Saturday, seven miners were air-dashed to the GPH, where they were quarantined, after experiencing similar flu-like symptoms, which led to the death of their colleague, a Chinese national, at the Pakera Hospital in Matthews Ridge.

The miners reportedly fell ill during the course of last week and were admitted to the Pakera District Hospital with fever, headaches, joint pain, mild shortness of breath, unstable vital signs and moderate to severe respiratory syndrome. An additional six employees from the company were also air-dashed to the GPH on Monday, in a move health officials described as a precaution. The employees, five Chinese nationals and one Guyanese, who were exposed to the infectious area, were brought to the city after it was recommended that they seek medical attention. Following a battery of tests conducted on the first batch of hospitalised GMI employees, two were diagnosed with leptospirosis. One of the two employees, who were quarantined, succumbed on Thursday morning at the GPH.

Sunday Stabroek understands that the two men who have died, 47-year-old Zhenglong Zong and 45-year-old Zengguo Ji, both succumbed to septic shock and pneumonia.

The other miner diagnosed with leptospirosis remains hospitalised and his condition is said to be critical. He is being monitored and evaluated by an internal medicine specialist at the hospital. The Ministry of Public Health, in a statement on Thursday, said that the GPH had discharged two Chinese nationals made ill by an outbreak of infectious disease at the GMI-owned tunnel in Matthews Ridge after successful treatment.

The Regional Health Officer, Dr Vishal Ramjas, had also disclosed that another GMI employee was admitted at the Pakera Hospital and is undergoing treatment for “a respiratory tract infection.” That patient is also in a stable condition, Dr Ramjas said.

Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Public Health Dr Shamdeo Persaud also reiterated that “all precautionary measures are still in place at the Matthews Ridge tunnel site and the immediate surroundings and essential medical supplies are in stock to treat employees of the mining firm and residents of the area.”

Since last week’s outbreak, the health ministry said that the area has been deemed a “Red Zone” and “no one is allowed to enter the site.”

The ministry had said on Monday that tests conducted on the first set of employees ruled out the Swine Flu strain of the H1N1 virus as well as Zika, Chikungunya, Dengue, and Influenza A and B, as the cause of the illness that had befallen the miners. However, it noted that two of the patients had tested positive for Leptospirosis, which is known to be spread through direct contact with infected animal urine or faeces.

Tunnels at the mines had been closed since 1961 and were reopened on March 19th, this newspaper was told. A total of 15 GMI employees were working in the area at the time.

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