Threat from TB

Tuberculosis Threat On Our Border

The failure to contain an epidemic of Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the Torres Strait Protected Zone now may have significant long-term financial and social implications for both PNG and Australia, especially the Torres Strait, according to a report in the Australian Medical Journal.
The report said findings in 2006 discovered a rising incidence of TB in the Torres Strait and changing TB patterns in Far North Queensland.
"Evidence of rising incidence of TB in the Torres Strait and primary transmission of MDR-TB within the Western Province of PNG suggests the potential for a major public health crisis, with the possibility of MDR-TB spreading to northern Queensland.
"Urgent efforts are needed to scale-up resources to find further cases and provide appropriate treatment and follow-up for all visitors and residents living in the Torres Strait Protected Zone."
The journal says Australia is fortunate to have one of the lowest incident rates of tuberculosis (TB) in the world, with rates remaining stable at 5–6 cases per 100,000 population since the mid 1980s.
However, Australia’s close proximity to many countries in the Asia–Pacific region with a high or intermediate TB burden necessitates an evaluation of policies and strategies for TB control for Australian.
"The health status of Papua New Guineans is one of the lowest in the Pacific region, and TB is one of the three leading infectious diseases causing death in PNG, with an estimated mortality rate of 42 deaths per 100,000 population. The estimated annual incidence of all forms of TB in PNG is 233 cases per 100,000 population."
The report says the Treaty presents an important challenge to Australia to ensure that the unique lifestyle of the region’s traditional inhabitants is protected while advancing Australia’s public health interests.
Because of limited access to health care in the Western Province, PNG nationals from the coastal areas are travelling to the nearby islands of Boigu and Saibai to seek treatment. During a study of the region, TB cases originated from the coastal village of Mabadauan, Sigabaduru, Buzi and Dimiri.
"With the close proximity of PNG to Australian territory, efforts to upscale control of TB in the Torres Strait are essential to ensure that MDR-TB does not become an emerging problem in Queensland.
In the past two years, 30 MDR-TB strains have been identified in Australia, with a third of these originating from the Western Province of PNG. Continued, Page 2.


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