By Sasha Pei-Silovo – EM TV Online
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is putting an enormous strain on Papua New Guinea’s public health system. About 30,000 new cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed every year in PNG, and health workers say there is an urgent need for resources where TB is prevalent, to address the spread of the curable, but deadly disease.
Country Director of World Vision PNG, Curt von Boguslawski, recently revealed that the national TB programme is yielding positive results. In an interview with Radio New Zealand, on the current TB epidemic in PNG, Boguslawski stated that the collection of health data had significantly improved.
Although TB is on the rise, Boguslawski said that through the national TB programme, more cases were being detected, and therefore all concerned parties in the fight against TB, which includes the PNG Health Department and development partners, are better informed to treat the disease.
The TB outbreak in the Western Province continues to cause concern for health officials. Medical staff at the Daru General Hospital have also contracted TB from patients. Reliable sources revealed to EM TV recently, that two more clinical staff were diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), bringing the total of health workers contracting the disease at the hospital to now, 11 confirmed cases.
On a recent trip to Daru, EM TV found nine clinical staff suffering from TB; eight of whom had contracted MDR-TB, and one health worker having been diagnosed with extensively MDR-TB, and housed in the isolation ward at the Daru General Hospital. Watch documented findings here.
MDR-TB is TB that does not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful anti-TB drugs. Most TB patients are cured by following a strict, six-month drug programme.
Mismanagement of TB treatment and person-to-person transmission has been blamed for the continuous to emergence and spread of MDR-TB. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the inappropriate or incorrect use of antimicrobial drugs, or use of ineffective formulations of drugs gives rise to drug-resistant TB. Causes of MDR-TB include: the use of single drugs, poor quality medicines or bad storage conditions and premature treatment interruption. Persons in crowded settings, such as prisons and hospitals, are especially vulnerable to MDR-TB.
Extensively drug-resistant TB, XDR-TB, is a form of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis with additional resistance to more anti-TB drugs that therefore responds to even fewer available medicines. XDR-TB has been reported in 100 countries worldwide; Papua New Guinea is one of these nations where extensively drug-resistant TB exists.
Papua New Guinea’s national TB programme received a boost through the recent, additional Global Fund grant of US $18 million, implemented by World Vision. This is a welcome relief, following the announcement of the health department’s need for additional funding to fully implement the National Strategic Plan 2015 to 2020, for TB control programs in the country.
The programme is led by the National Department of Health, in partnership with non-government organisations on the ground that are implementing effective TB programs throughout the country. The programme follows the World Health Organisation’s TB control strategy, Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS).
Curt von Boguslawski, Country Director of World Vision PNG, when speaking of the improvements seen through the implementation of the national TB programme, said that five years ago, only 5,000 cases were detected. Poor health data collection and records had always been a major hurdle for the fight against TB in PNG.
He added that the disease cannot be treated effectively, when there is no detection; therefore, improved health data enables stakeholders to know more about the disease, know the cases and know how and where to administer treatment.