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TB checks continue as calls grow for new vaccine

Screening and checks to contain an outbreak of tuberculosis cases on South Australia's Indigenous lands are continuing amid new calls for extra funding to eliminate the disease by 2030.

Earlier this month SA Health reported 10 confirmed TB cases in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, prompting an immediate response with wider community checks and general screening.

About 50 people have reportedly gone through that process so far.

Senior health officials also visited the area with the state's Aboriginal Public Health team leading the engagement in impacted communities including those at Pukatja, Amata and Pipalyatjara.

The response included contact tracing and active case finding to treat and contain the outbreak.

Health and education advocacy group Results International pointed to the cases on the APY lands as it marked World Tuberculosis Day on Friday with calls for a new vaccine by 2025 as part of efforts to eliminate the disease by the end of the decade.

"The progress we were making in reducing TB cases and deaths over the years has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as TB infections have gone undetected and unmanaged," chief executive Negaya Chorley said.

"Now, for the first time in more than a decade, TB deaths are on the rise.

"TB could soon reclaim the title of the leading cause of death worldwide from a single infectious agent yet the disease is entirely preventable and curable."

Ms Chorley said the same concerted global momentum harnessed to tackle COVID-19 needed to be applied to ending TB.

"We need to use all the tools in the toolbox including scaling up prevention, treatment and cure," she said.

Ms Chorley said the current TB vaccine was more than a century old and a new and effective version would save millions of lives.

"If COVID has taught us anything, it's that we have the scientific capability and know how to tackle infectious diseases including TB," she said.

"We just need the will.

"We are calling on the Australian government to encourage world leaders to set ambitious targets to eliminate TB and back it up with adequate financing."

About the same time as the outbreak on the APY lands, SA's Deputy State Coroner Ian White reported on the deaths of a young girl and a woman from TB infections.

Monineath Chum, 9, died in hospital in February 2017 after being ill for several months, while 29-year-old Rehema Shariff Kangethe was found dead in her bed at home in 2018.

In both cases, Mr White raised concerns about how they were monitored and followed up on in the period leading up to their deaths.

Click here to read the original article in The Canberra Times.


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