An outbreak of meningitis at the construction site of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in Mersin, a southern coastal city in Turkey, has reportedly resulted in the deaths of multiple workers, further highlighting the serious health and safety concerns surrounding the already controversial project.
Reports emerging from the site confirm that at least five workers have succumbed to meningitis, a grave health crisis prompting immediate action. Mustafa Avşar, a relative of one of the deceased, expressed condolences on social media, highlighting the gravity of the situation.
In response to the outbreak, Mersin’s Silifke State Hospital implemented mandatory mask-wearing and protective equipment measures, underlining the urgency of the situation. Health workers have begun vaccinating individuals against meningitis as a preventive measure. Local pharmacies in Silifke reported a significant demand for ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic used in the treatment of meningitis, indicating the extent of the crisis.
Workers at the Akkuyu site expressed alarm over the outbreak, with reports of mask distributions and isolation measures being put in place. Concerns have been raised that workers’ conditions were not adequately addressed until their health had significantly deteriorated. A message from the construction company to the workers confirmed the presence of meningitis on-site and urged immediate hospitalisation for symptomatic individuals.
Health experts and union representatives have reacted to the crisis, with Nasır Nesanır, President of the Mersin Medical Association, confirming the meningitis cases and associated fatalities. Nesanır emphasised the need for immediate preventive measures and vaccination for all workers, while questioning whether the situation could be classified as an epidemic.
Prof. Dr. Ahmet Saltık, a public health expert, stressed the importance of stringent hygiene measures and preparedness for other infectious diseases in the wake of previous food poisoning incidents at the site. Saltık called for comprehensive health checks, increased hygiene protocols and vaccination, highlighting the responsibility of the workplace health and safety department in such outbreaks.
The Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant has faced recurring issues, including long working hours, occupational accidents and unhygienic living conditions, prompting questions over accountability. Anastasia Zoteeva, CEO and Chairwoman of the Board of Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, and Alparslan Bayraktar, Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, are now facing scrutiny regarding their roles in addressing the ongoing concerns at the construction site.