MARSHALLS STEPS UP FIGHT AGAINST RESISTANT TB

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Doubling number of hosital beds in isolation ward

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 3, 2010) – The main hospital in the Marshall Islands is doubling the number of beds in its tuberculosis isolation ward.

This is to help contain a growing problem that has led to 10 diagnosed drug-resistant cases of the lung disease.

The cost to treat one case of multi-drug resistant TB is 174,000 US dollars.

Our correspondent in the Marshall Islands, Giff Johnson, says health officials have identified about 500 people who were in contact with the 10 confirmed cases.

"The trick is that only do these drug resistant cases need to be treated with very different types of medication that are hugely expensive and also quite difficult for the patient themselves but then all the people who’ve come into contact need to get prophylactic medications in order to try to insure that they don’t also get TB and obviously the elevation of TB to this drug resistant level just makes it must more of a problem to eradicate in the Marshall Islands."

Giff Johnson says the Marshall Islands already had the Pacific’s highest rate of TB when new cases of drug-resistant TB were discovered in November.

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