Spread of tuberculosis a ‘security threat': Bishop

SBS | 24 MARCH 2015 

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has described the spread of tuberculosis from Papua New Guinea as a security threat for PNG and Australia.

“Drug resistant TB and malaria pose a threat to health security in our region and carry a high burden for our Asia-Pacific neighbours,” Ms Bishop said.

Each year 1.2 million people die from TB. The first known cases appeared in the Torres Strait last year. Today is World TB Day, designed to increase awareness in the global fight against TB.

North Queensland MP Warren Entsch is worried about the spread of the disease in his electorate. He said health authorities are preparing to institute testing in high risk areas. He said there isn’t enough known about the disease in the far north.”Effectively we have an absolute plague that is right on our doorstep four kilometres away in western Papua New Guinea” Mr Entsch said on the sidelines of a World TB Day event in Canberra.

“It has been raging out of control (in PNG) for a long time,” he said. “Only two weeks ago we had a young lass at one of the local high school diagnosed with drug resistant tuberculosis. Earlier there were two deaths, a mother and a daughter in Cairns hospital.

“We have three clusters in the outer islands of the Torres Strait, known clusters for tuberculosis.”

Mr Entsch said not enough is known about TB in the far north. Testing he said will help determine diagnosis and treatment plans. He said it is important to include local communities in the issue of the fight against TB.

“It is a major problem. We have to get on top of it.”