Alarming Rates Of Tuberculosis In PNG’s Capital District

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Drug resistant cases of TB post ‘serious public health concern’

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 7, 2014) – PNG Health Minister Michael Malabag has called for an emergency meeting with governors of two Papuan provinces and the National Capital District where tuberculosis has become a serious public health concern.

Mr Malabag said yesterday that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was so concerned about the increase in TB cases that he has written to NCD Governor Powes Parkop, Gulf Governor Havila Kavo and Western Province Governor Ati Wobiro to attend the meeting today to create an emergency response team that will target the three provinces.

He said NCD had been identified as the hot spot for TB with consistently high TB notification rates, which is four times more than the national average.

"The NCD contributes to 25 percent of the country’s TB burden, despite being home to only 5 percent of the country’s population," the Health Minister said.

He said from the beginning of 2013, 128 drug resistant TB cases have been notified in NCD, 47 of whom are on treatment, seven have died and 45 are yet to be traced. "At the end of September 2014, two extensively-drug resistant TB cases were reported in NCD," Mr Malabag said.

He said the treatment course of drug resistant TB cases was substantially more costly and labourious than drug susceptible tuberculosis, which have higher rates of treatment failure and mortality.

"At present, drug resistant TB poses a major threat to an already weak TB control program in NCD," he said. "If this threat is not addressed immediately, NCD will be confronted with huge political, structural and economic constraints and this situation will worsen."

He said more than 30 per cent of patients did not adhere to treatment and were lost to follow-up in NCD which could be one of the contributing factors to the development of the drug-resistant TB.

He said the TB emergency response taskforce has been in place for some weeks now and has estimated the cost of the three month Emergency Response Plan for NCD to be about K1.2 million.

"The emergency response will ensure all the components of the best strategy to control TB, DOTS will be strengthened and the programmatic management of drug resistant TB will be instituted.

"These obviously require all our concerted efforts with all the stakeholders ad political commitments to make it work," Mr Malabag said.

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