News Release

Asst. Sec. Interior for Insular Areas Tony Babauta Washington, D.C. Feb. 6, 2010

Tony Babauta, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas, signed yesterday a US$1,456,932 grant that will be used to combat an outbreak of multiple drug resistant tuberculosis in the Marshall Islands.

"This disease needs to be stopped in its tracks for the health of the Marshallese people," said Babauta. "If left unchecked it would burden the community not just with expensive medical care but with lives lost prematurely."

Babauta pointed out that this is not the first occurrence of drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) in the Freely Associated States.

"I am increasingly concerned that given the free migration privileges of the Freely Associated States (FAS) citizens to the U.S., outbreaks such as this demands quick and immediate action by FAS leaders, the federal government and U.S. jurisdictions most visited by FAS citizens," he said. "Containment and cure should be our priority to ensure that FAS and U.S. citizens are protected. In the recent past there has been a similar outbreak in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and I anticipate that the lessons learned will provide an excellent model for the Marshalls to follow and provide a similar outcome of success."

In 2008, an outbreak of drug resistant TB occurred in FSM. The U.S. government through the Department of the Interior, at that time, provided similar assistance to stem the spread of the disease.

The collaboration among FSM leadership, the U.S. government, and regional leaders resulted in the Centers for Disease Control Division of Tuberculosis Elimination presenting special awards to Dr. Dorina Fred of Chuuk State and Dr. Richard Brostrom of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) who, through collaboration and extreme competence, managed, and took control of the Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDRTB) outbreak in Chuuk, preventing loss of life.

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