24 March 2012, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Noumea –
Today SPC joins public health bodies around the world to commemorate World Tuberculosis (TB) Day and reaffirm its commitment to combating this disease.
TB is still a public health problem with approximately 8.8 million new cases diagnosed in 2010, with 1.1 million deaths in HIV negative people and an additional 0.35 million HIV-TB associated deaths. In the Pacific, 16,107 cases were newly diagnosed with TB in 2010: 14,531 in Papua New Guinea and 1,576 in other Pacific Islands states. Of the cases diagnosed, many go on to be cured and the Pacific region has typically reported good treatment success rates.
‘Each year at SPC we commemorate this day because for us in the Pacific, TB is still prevalent and represents a significant burden to Pacific Island communities,’ said Dr Jimmie Rodgers, SPC Director-General.
‘Our statistics show that, for some Pacific Island countries and territories, rates of TB are on the decline but in others the rates have increased since 2000, when we began implementing internationally recommended TB control strategies in a consistent manner. This may reflect a real increase in TB or better detection of cases that might have previously been undiagnosed. We think it is probably the latter.’
He continued, ‘We are also pleased to note that, when cases are diagnosed, patients have access to high quality TB care from trained staff, effective TB drugs and good clinical and laboratory follow-up according to agreed protocols. This has been a significant achievement in the region and one that we are proud of. However, some challenges remain in providing treatment and cure to people living in remote and over-crowded urban locations.’
The slogan for this year’s World TB Day is ‘Stop TB in my Lifetime’. It calls for a world free of TB and encourages individuals and communities to advocate for a range of activities designed to eliminate the disease — better vaccines, and more effective drugs to treat and cure TB and improved ways to diagnose TB.
Dr Rodgers added, ‘SPC’s TB Team is working tirelessly with our member countries and territories to reduce the burden of TB and eventually eliminate it as a public health problem in the Pacific. In doing so, SPC is assisting member countries to build capacity and competency, and develop better ways of tackling the disease so that it can be effectively controlled.’
Broadly, the work of the TB Team encompasses the provision of technical assistance to support region-wide implementation of the internationally recommended TB control strategy — the Stop TB Strategy — in line with the goal and objectives of the World Health Organization’s Regional Strategy to Stop Tuberculosis in the Western Pacific region: 2011–2015. The TB Team works in collaboration with national governments, regional partners and donors to provide this support, and collaborates closely with the WHO (Western Pacific Office) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For more information about the media release, please contact Alisi Tuqa, SPC Planning Officer on email
or Kerri Viney, Acting TB Adviser on email
World TB Day commemorates the day when, in 1882, Dr Robert Koch announced to the scientific community that he had found the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.
TB is a contagious disease that spreads through the air. Only people who are sick with TB in their lungs are infectious. When infectious people cough, sneeze, talk or spit, they propel TB germs, known as bacilli, into the air. A person needs only to inhale a small number of these to be infected.
Characteristic symptoms of TB are persistent cough of more than three weeks duration, cough with expectoration of sputum, fever, weight loss or loss of appetite.
The disease is fully curable if the treatment is taken on a regular and continuous basis for adequate duration.