Health officials suspect that toxicity of a waterway in Region 7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) may have caused the death of a boy and the “brain dead” state of his brother, Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton said Sunday night.
Based on symptoms and an autopsy, he said medical experts have ruled out an infection such as meningitis but rather the possible consumption of water containing toxic chemicals. “The symptoms that the boy has shown speak of a pathology of the brain but not necessarily an infection and the physician is saying that it can be because of some toxicity and she came to the idea that it is similar to that of cyanide. Now mining is going on in the area and we did not rule out that it could have been the utilization of contaminated water,” Dr. Norton.
Dr. Norton said he Sunday led a high-level team of experts from the health sector and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to ascertain the possible cause of the death and illness. The team, whichincludes a pediatrician, an epidemiologist, Regional Health Officer, Dr. Edward Sagala; Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Karen Boyle and a GGMC official, is expected to visit all the Upper Mazaruni villages.
“I came out today (Sunday) because I don’t think it’s a crisis situation,” he said.
The Health Minister said the eight year old boy died at Kako and his 11-year old brother is in a “brain dead” state at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. The cause of death is cerebral edema (swelling of the brain), malaria and haemorrhagic broncho-pneumonia. Specimens have been taken and are to be sent to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency’s laboratory for testing.
He said the lads went hunting two weeks ago and days after returning one of them complained of headache, neck pain, cough and fever. His brother later presented mild symptoms and he was rushed to the GPHC where he had told health workers that he did not want to die like his brother, Norton said.
Five children were subsequently treated for fever and cold and sent away after a health worker was convinced that they did not have any symptoms like the brothers.
The Health Minister said no other member of the boys’ immediate family has shown similar symptoms.