TB threat a risk to our wellbeing

Editorial

IT is no joke that the rates of tuberculosis, drug-resistant tuberculosis and TB/HIV co-infection in Papua New Guinea are among the highest in the world.
In recent years there have been 30,000 new cases of TB and 3000 new HIV cases annually. Untreated TB is a highly infectious disease and there are 6000 new cases each year in the National Capital District. That’s 500 every month, and about 48 every day.
High population mobility, poor TB control and crowded settlements contribute to the fast spread of the disease in NCD.
Western and Gulf are other hotspot provinces.
According to the Angau Memorial General Hospital’s 2017 Annual Report, the TB DOTS Clinic in 2014 attended to a total of 6978 TB patients, then 6805 patients in 2015. In 2016 the clinic attended to a total of 8892 which increased to 10,945 in 2017.
And PNG is recognised by the World Health Organisation as having a ‘high TB burden’.
That is definitely a health security issue for PNG to deal with.
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 between 10 and 15 people every year.
While the majority of these cases make a full recovery, TB is responsible for the deaths of about 10 people in PNG every day.
That’s a shocking waste of good people’s lives.
The rates of TB, drug resistant TTB and TB/HIV co-infection in PNG are among the worst in the world.
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.
To treat tuberculosis 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.
Children face the greatest risk.
Reports say many remotely-situated TB sufferers die without ever receiving a formal diagnosis.
Inconsistent treatment cannot only increase the disease’s severity but also strengthen the infection’s resistance to treatment.
Sunday is World TB Day and itg will be a shame if this day goes by quietly.
The TB epidemic isn’t just a national public health threat for PNG.
If not adequately managed, the epidemic could have social and economic ramifications for the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Although TB is a complex disease, prevention and testing every persistent cough can be easy and free of charge.
Everyone needs to understand the free treatment pathway, risk of exposure and that other health conditions like HIV, or diabetes significantly add to the risk of developing the disease.
Leadership and education reduce stigma and discrimination.
Stigma may keep people from asking for help to access testing, treatment or support TB or HIV.
Government must maintain a sense of urgency in their emergency response efforts. Government commitment is vital for tackling the pandemic.

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