Tuberculosis becoming a threat

Editorial

THE high tuberculosis (TB) infection rate in the country should also be raising eyebrows and have a “national emergency” declared as all efforts swing towards containing it.
And 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.
That is not a comforting news as this 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.
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 multidrug resistant and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis.
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.
Increasing incidences due to minimal healthcare, 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 great 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.
Furthermore, only 50 per cent of those infected with TB have access to adequate treatment.
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 also strengthen the infection’s resistance to treatment options.
Just like the coronavirus, the Government’s commitment is vital for tackling the pandemic.
The Government should maintain a sense of urgency in their emergency response efforts.
PNG’s TB public health education and treatment services should be prioritised by the international community, the Government and community health workers.
More should be done multilaterally to curb the recent escalation of drug-resistant cases.
Our health systems are 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.
Investigating 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.
A recently conducted national TB patient cost survey in PNG showed that TB patients suffer from social and financial consequences of TB and lack of financial or social protection.
The TB epidemic is a national public health threat for PNG.

One thought on “Tuberculosis becoming a threat

  • We do no seem to learn from our mistakes. Hopefully a new Health Secretary will be the missing link we need to get things moving in the right direction.

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