Avoid travelling to Bali, Lombok, Indonesia or south-east Asia like the plague, because there is one. Turberculosis is out of control and is approaching pandemic levels. Turberculosis or TB is a highly infectious bacterial disease characterised by the growth of nodules (tubercles) in the tissues, especially the lungs.
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air. This can happen when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs or even breathes.
The disease is a Third World one and it has spread across the Third World region north of Australia including through New Guinea, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it an outbreak out of control.
Popular Third World holiday destinations to many of Australians are teeming with the deadly tuberculosis disease which is now becoming resistant to drug treatment.
Australians are being urged not to travel to South East Asia and to especially avoid places like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Last year one million Indonesians caught the disease along with 130,000 in Vietnam and 120,000 in Thailand. In these Third World nations the disease is out of control.
With the approaching Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the risk of catching TB is a worry. In 2010 there were 70,000 cases of reported TB across Brazil, with 11,000 of those in Rio.
In the 19th Century pandemic tuberculosis killed about 1/4th of the adult population of Europe. With cheap international airline travel, TB is again on the rise. Since 2013, one third of the world’s current population has been infected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and new infections occur at a rate of 1 per second, primarily across Third World Asia and Africa.
About 5-10% of these infections leads to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about 50% of its victims. TB affects approximately 8 million people worldwide and about 2 million people die of this disease annually.
Last October 2015, a WHO Global Tuberculosis Report shows South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions account for 58 per cent of new cases globally. Read Report
And teachers and childcare workers who travel there for holidays are bringing the highly contagious disease back to our shores. Australia’s Department of Health data shows that the number of Australians newly diagnosed with the disease has more than doubled from 612 in 1991 to 1342 in 2014.
TB killed 1.5 million people worldwide last year – more than AIDS, the WHO says.
Since the 1980s, the number of cases of tuberculosis has increased dramatically because of deviant sex and the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Infection with HIV suppresses the immune system, making it difficult for the body to control TB bacteria. As a result, people with HIV are many times more likely to get TB and to progress from latent to active disease than are people who aren’t HIV positive.
But tuberculosis has become even more deadly because various strains have become drug-resistant. Since the first antibiotics were used to fight tuberculosis 60 years ago, some TB germs have developed the ability to survive, and that ability gets passed on to their descendants.
Global health and poverty advocate Results International is calling on the Australian Government to step up its $220 million contribution to the fight against tuberculosis which is now rampaging in our region.
“Childcare workers and teachers are coming back from holidays and have caused concern among those facilities and they have had to have everyone tested,” Results International chief executive Maree Nutt said.
More than 100 children had to be tested for TB at a Sydney childcare centre earlier this year after someone at the centre contracted the airborne disease that infects the lungs, bones and sometimes the brain.
Ms Nutt says she doesn’t think Australians are aware the threat the disease poses in our region and wants our government to do more to stop it.
Australia needs to, at the very least, replenish its $200 million commitment to the global fund to fight the disease when new donations are required next year, Ms Nutt said.
She’s worried that with more than $1 billion cut from aid in recent budgets, this won’t happen.
The WHO claims to have met international goals for reducing TB with deaths falling by 47 per cent since 1990, saving an estimated 43 million lives since 2000.
However, Ms Nutt says with the incident rate falling by just 1.5 per cent a year it will take another 200 years to eradicate the disease.
There is no adult vaccination against the airborne disease and if you catch the drug resistant variety, treatment lasts for two years and in some cases chemotherapy is required.
The Department of Health says TB remains a serious challenge in our region, and Australia continues to support our neighbours to develop and fund flexible and responsive health systems better equipped to combat the disease.
PNG has the highest rate of TB infection in the Pacific, with an estimated 39,000 total cases and 25,000 new infections each year.
“The Australian Government (through DFAT) is investing $44.7 million over 2011-12 to 2016-17 to support improved TB control in PNG’s Western Province, particularly along the South Fly coast. This includes the provision of TB specialist staff, training for community health workers and volunteer treatment supporters,” a spokeswoman for the department said.
The Australian Government has also funded partnerships which bring new medicines, diagnostic tests and vaccines to market, with a particular focus on drug-resistant TB.
Worldwide, 9.6 million people are estimated to have fallen ill with tuberculosis in 2014. Around 480,000 of these were cases of multidrug-resistant TB. Those infected have a 10 per cent lifetime risk of falling ill with the disease with symptoms including cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
Treatment includes a six-month course of four antimicrobial drugs but the multi-resistant varieties require up to two years of treatment using chemotherapy.
“We recognise that the Australian Government has made commitments to fund TB eradication programs in our region but the scale of the problem revealed by the latest WHO report shows how much more work the international community needs to do to bring tuberculosis under control,” Ms Nutt said.
TB ‘High Burden Countries’
There are 22 TB high burden countries (HBCs) worldwide, and together they account for about 80 percent of the world’s tuberculosis infections.
HBCs are defined as the countries that rank first to 22nd in terms of absolute numbers of cases and which have received particular attention at the global level since 2000.
They are almost all Third World, and currently are as follows:
- Congo (Dem. Republic of)
- Russian Federation
- South Africa
TB Outbreak across Indonesia including Bali and Lombok
The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Indonesia a “high burden country” for tuberculosis, where there are roughly 500,000 new cases of TB annually and 175,000 attributable deaths.
Tuberculosis has become the second major killer of adults after cardiovascular disease and the deadliest pathogen out of all communicable diseases.
In global terms, there are one billion people infected with tuberculosis at any one time. Eight million new cases are reported annually with three million attributable deaths.
According to health officials, Tuberculosis is an increasing issue in Bali. Recent statistics are unavailable, but in 2010 a total of 479 people were listed as suffering from the disease in the island’s capital Denpasar, up from 418 in 2009.
Chairman of the Denpasar branch of The Indonesian Tuberculosis Eradication Organisation (PPTI), Sudhana Satrigraha has said the occurrence of HIV-AIDS exacerbated the threat of TB, and AIDS patients were particularly susceptible to the disease, because sufferers’ immune systems have very weak resistance, and more active homosexuals visiting.