Tuberculosis through sharing lime

Editorial, Normal

The National – Monday, February 14, 2011

THE World TB Day is more than a month away.
In Morobe, the provincial health office and the districts are hard at work trying to create awareness for authorities in the government and private sector.
All the while, humanitarian organisation World Vision is at the fore, leading in administration and awareness of the dreaded disease.
One of World Vision’s concerns, as raised by former Wampar-Huon Gulf district health extension officer Emily Meren, is the rise in pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).
This form of TB is known in Tok Pisin as Maket TB.
The designation of the name probably came from betelnut stalls where hundreds of people share a lime after buying betelnut and mustard from the vendor.
It is believed that sharing lime with a TB patient would spread it. The likelihood of contracting TB through this means is high, say provincial authorities.
One way to stem the rise, according to Meren, is to educate the people through awareness campaigns.
Meren and World Vision say that pulmonary TB becomes a drug when a patient skips medication.
The development of the drug-resistant strain is a major blow to her efforts to combating the disease.
She told a gathering of LLG presidents from the Huon Gulf district, including Wampars’ Peter Namus and district administrator Tony Ase, as well as the manager of Markham Farms Beulah Mapi Merrick, that people need to know the risks.
Research had shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely to develop tuberculosis. A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease.
The only way that tuberculosis transmission can occur is when one person transmits the bacteria to another person through the air. Common human-to-human contact, such as handshakes or sharing dishes and utensils with someone who has tuberculosis, will not transmit the tuberculosis bacteria.
Tuberculosis transmission occurs from one person to another through the air. People cannot get infected with tuberculosis through handshakes, sitting on toilet seats or sharing dishes and utensils with someone who has tuberculosis.
When a person with tuberculosis coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings, or laughs, tiny microscopic droplets containing the tuberculosis bacterium (mycobacterium tuberculosis) are sent into the air. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. When a person breathes in tuberculosis bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there, they can move through the blood to other parts of the body such as the kidneys, spine and brain.
Tuberculosis can only be transmitted by people with active tuberculosis. Tuberculosis transmission from an infected person is most likely to occur with people whom they spend time with every day. This includes family members, friends and co-workers. People with tuberculosis, who have been treated with the correct drugs for at least two weeks, however, are no longer contagious and do not spread the bacteria to others.
Generally, people only show symptoms of tuberculosis when they have the active form of the disease. Early tuberculosis symptoms may include fever, chills and loss of appetite.
The bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs but may also attack other parts of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain.
If not treated properly, TB can be fatal. TB was once the leading cause of death in the United States and was believed to be a major killer in Papua New Guinea.
Although a tuberculosis cure was developed more than 50 years ago, TB continues to kill between two and three million people every year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 36 million people will die of tuberculosis by 2020 if it is not controlled.
People need to be responsible and respect others.
They need to close their mouths when they are coughing, and they need to inform people they are living or liaising with that they have TB. If they do not know, they should immediately go for medical checks and have their sputum tested.
Here also lies a problem from the PNG medical authorities. There is no equipment in laboratories to test suspected cases so they have to be sent to Australia for analysis.
By the time the results arrive, the patient is dead or has been affected further and may have spread the bacteria to another person.