TB remains a public health threat


PAPUA New Guinea is among the top 30 countries with a high burden of tuberculosis (TB), TB/HIV co-infection and drug-resistant TB.
PNG reports about 30,000 TB cases every year.
TB continues to be the leading cause of death.
It is a health security issue for PNG knowing that approximately 30,000 people in the country are infected with the TB bacteria every year.
High population mobility, poor TB control and crowded settlements contribute to the fast spread of the disease.
With the coronavirus having all the attention with the surge in number of cases, this is not comforting news as it is already a health risk.
TB is an airborne infection that causes the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis to develop into a disease that destroys organ tissue most commonly in the lungs.
TB bacteria are spread through the air from one person to another.
The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks or sings.
People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
It can be fatal if left untreated.
If left untreated, one person can infect 10 to 15 people every year.
Out of the 30,000 people infected, one out of four are diagnosed; one out of five receive treatment; and, less than half get successfully treated.
With the increasing incidences of drug-resistant strains and limited access to adequate healthcare, the nation has seen a recent resurgence of support from international governments and medical humanitarian agencies. This resistance stems from multi-drug resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB.
To treat TB infection, a daily regimen of injections, oral medication and supervised medical care of anywhere between six to 24 months is recommended.
TB remains a significant public health problem with national indicators showing stagnating and, in some provinces, declining treatment success rates.
Increasing incidences due to minimal health care, poor housing and nutrition have contributed to poverty, overcrowding and people failing to complete their treatment.
In fact, only 50 per cent of individuals have access to adequate healthcare.
Children face the greatest risk of contracting disabling forms of tuberculosis.
According to the PNG Institute for Medical Research, many remotely-situated TB sufferers die of the disease without ever receiving a formal diagnosis.
This is problematic, as TB recovery can require a daily regimen of injections, oral medication, and supervised medical care for anywhere between six and 24 months.
Inconsistent treatment can not only increase the disease’s severity but strengthen the infection’s resistance to treatment options as well. Just as the coronavirus, the Government’s commitment is vital for tackling the epidemic.
The Government should maintain a sense of urgency in their emergency response efforts.
Our health system is facing tough and complex challenges, in part derived from new pressures, such as ageing populations, growing prevalence of chronic illnesses including the procurement and distribution of medical supplies.
Investing in health is investing in people, which is essential for sustainable long-term development outcomes.
Failing to invest in health leads to poor health outcomes and has a profound economic impact resulting in high costs for Papua New Guinea.
The TB epidemic is a national public health threat for the country.