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Drug resistant strains emerging

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 3, 2009) – The Secretariat of the Pacific Community is alarmed by new data showing an increase in tuberculosis in the Pacific region.

About 1500 people have been infected with the illness per year in the past three years, with Micronesia having the highest TB rate with 140 people per 100,000 infected.

Melanesian countries have an average of 37 cases per 100,000, while Polynesian countries have 19.

The Secretariat’s Dr Janet O’Connor says the slowly developing infection is generally curable, but many cases in the region involve a drug-resistant strain.

"Tuberculosis has been increasing and the burden of TB is really high. Additionally, is the emergence of the multi-drug resistant TB, which is a big concern for us in the Pacific region, because it’ll be difficult for countries with limited resources to try to treat these resistant strains."

Janet O’Connor says she’s concerned that the situation could escalate.

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