Sunday, October 21, 2012

Officials reject PNG killer tuberculosis is a threat

Herald Sun

Cairns Base Hospital with Papua New Guinea girl who is one of first cases of Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis
NO CURE: Catherina Abraham, from Papua New Guinea, has contracted a deadly variant of tuberculosis and is quarantined in Cairns Base Hospital for probably the next two years. Source: The Cairns Post

HEALTH officials have been accused of not doing enough to prevent an outbreak of a mutant strain of the killer lung disease tuberculosis spreading into north Queensland.
But health authorities claim there is little to worry about.
The Courier-Mail last Friday revealed one of Australia's first cases of mutated XDR-TB (Extensively Drug-Resistant TB) in a Papua New Guinean, Catherine Abraham, 20, being treated in isolation at Cairns Base Hospital.
Experts warn she is the first in a wave before the highly contagious, incurable, untreatable form of TB spreads.
But Queensland's chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young last Friday played down the immediate threat.
"Queensland is not at risk but certainly PNG is at risk, if we don't assist them as much as possible," she said.
Queensland taxpayers footed a $32 million bill for the treatment for tuberculosis of about 100 Papua New Guineans over the past two years, with 92 patients handed back by Queensland Health in June - 65 of them fully treated.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg's office said that despite being an international matter, the Commonwealth did not fully fund health services to PNG nationals.
The disagreement means Queensland must accept a project agreement by June or risk losing $8.1 million in Commonwealth funding.
Senate Estimates heard on Thursday that of AusAID's $104 million allocation to the PNG health sector, only $5.8 million was for programs relating to tuberculosis, of which PNG has the world's highest infection rate.
Opposition Parliamentary Secretary Teresa Gambaro said: "PNG is our nearest neighbour we need to be doing more."

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