PNG launches TB awareness campaign as rates fly
PNG launches Tuberculosis awareness campaign as disease rates continue to climb.
Papua New Guinea authorities have launched a tuberculosis awareness programme as the disease continues to spread across the nation.
The Prime Minister launched the campaign after reports of hospital wards being full of infected patients and fears the rate would climb out of control.
The TB Programme director Dr Paul Iia says 29,000 are projected to contract the disease this year.
PAUL IIA: We are seeing an increase in the number of TB cases being treated. Our total cases reported last year was 23,000. The government has taken on, through the Prime Minister, to launch the programme, the campaign, so that people are aware of the symptoms of the disease and they need to seek medical advice as early as possible. The Prime Minister has given his symptoms and signs of the disease and when to recognise and what to do and what is available in the country in terms of the management and the treatment of TB.
KORO VAKA'UTA: For those that don't know, what are the symptoms and signs of TB?
PI: Most important things, if you are coughing for more than two weeks, you have night sweats and you are gradually losing weight, you need to see a doctor or visit a health facility to get yourself checked to exclude TB. Especially we ask for a spit test to be given to those who are coughing more than two weeks. So we check their spit for the TB organism.
KV: Is there any way to avoid or prevent TB?
PI: There are many factors but the primary factor now that we have is that TB is an airborne disease. So TB can affect any part of your body but the most contagious or infectious cases are people who have got TB in their lungs. So when they cough, they throw out these explosive coughs and when you cough there's air particles that is being spewed or coughed out. Whoever is close by will breathe one of those air particles and in that it has TB organism. When somebody has got cough, they should close their mouth when coughing. If your spit is positive, the person should be treated. TB drugs should go for six months. We're having problems of people not taking their treatment faithfully so what we say is that patients should be supervised so that they complete the treatments so that the transmission is being stopped. TB is curable. We have some of the best drugs at the moment so if you take the drugs faithfully it shouldn't kill but when patient's are not taking their drugs or they're not attending the hospitals, then TB kills.
KV: We had reports earlier of a doctor at Port Moresby General Hospital mentioning that the wards there were full of TB patients. Has that been addressed or looked at?
PI: We're looking at investing in the infrastructure. One of the things the government is doing is looking at upgrading the major hospitals. One of them is to set up to be TB wards then we need to put in specific things to protect the staff. Special protective gear like face masks and other masks. And then look at when building hospitals or TB wards to look at their ventilation and air-flow and that sort of thing. The government is responding positively but it will take time. The immediate problem now is that we are having overcrowding in the wards which is a big issue at the moment but the government is addressing it so hopefully by mid next year we should have ease in PNG's situation at the moment.
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