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INCLEMENT WEATHER AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES

By NBF News
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IN the midst of changing weather condition, characterized by dry, dusty, hot and humid atmosphere, medical experts have warned that the prevailing condition could lead to spread of certain ailments. These include cerebro-spinal meningitis, measles, diarrhea, malaria, cholera, chicken pox, asthma and other respiratory diseases.

They also said that the perplexing and worrisome weather can cause dehydration, exhaustion, headache and skin infection across the country. Due to the inclement weather condition, an alarm was raised over the possibility of acid rain, said to be capable of causing skin cancer.

But the authorities of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) have debunked the rumour and assured the public that there is nothing to fear. NIMET's Director of Weather Forecasting Services, Dr. Ifeanyi Nnodu, explained that acid rain occurs when nitrogen, sulphur and other gases are injected into the atmosphere as a result of industrial effusions. Nnodu said that this normally happens in industrial areas, and ruled out harm to humans.

Scientists opine that possible places where acid rain can occur in Nigeria are highly industrialized areas of Lagos and Port Harcourt, but assured that there is no cause for alarm.

As the unusual weather lasts, medical experts have predicted that the harmattan haze would make bacteria and viral infections such as meningitis, measles, cold, cough and catarrh spread faster. Members of the public are advised to be careful of what they eat and drink during this time because the change in wind pattern can cause easy transfer of germs to food and drinking water.

In view of the fact that the weather causes dehydration, exhaustion and skin rashes, people are enjoined not to be alarmed but take more fluids to rehydrate the system and reduce their exposure to the weather as much as possible. They are advised to wear mouth and nose mask where and when necessary. The dusty wind can trigger asthmatic attacks in those with the condition and reduce immunity, especially in immune-compromised individuals.

What is happening now may be the product of many years of human activity on the earth.

The unrestricted pollution and exploitation of the earth's resources through unrestricted urbanization, deforestation and unbridled release of green house gases from industries into the atmosphere have made the change in weather inevitable. Actually, human beings are gradually reaping the consequences of global warming caused by deliberate emission of poisonous gases into the atmosphere that contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Since factors responsible for global warming are man-made, it is time we insist on proper management of the environment. Already, the United Nations (UN) has alerted the world on the danger posed by global warming through the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to Kyoto and Copenhagen conferences. Available figures show that the United States (U.S.) and China contribute 40 percent of global carbon emissions at 19.9 percent and 21.9 percent respectively. Other industrialized nations also contribute gas emissions that have heated up the earth.

Though, African countries contribute a little to global warming, they are not insulated from the effects as currently being witnessed. Therefore, these countries, through the African Union (AU), should map out pragmatic strategies to combat the effects of the development in the continent.

Let the Federal Ministry of Health and its counterparts in the other two tiers of government embark on massive enlightenment campaign programme on what people can do at a period like this. They should inform the public of the symptoms and signs to watch out for, and what to do and where they can access treatment.

There is also the need for the public health sector to provide awareness on any health development that would affect the people. They should take the necessary measures to always ensure public health and safety.