Local man is positive for TB; family tested


TUBERCULOSIS is rearing its ugly head on the Coffs Coast.

A local resident has begun six months of treatment after being confirmed as having pulmonary tuberculosis in January and a spokesman for the North Coast Area Health Service said a number of close family members and friends of the patient had been screened according to contact tracing guidelines.

One man called in for testing said he was 'very apprehensive' about the results of the testing and would not feel in the clear for some time, as he had to undergo another skin prick test in six weeks time.

The NCAHS spokesman said the case was the third in the community to be treated.

"One was diagnosed in May 2006 and will be on 12 months' treatment, the other was diagnosed in August 2006 and will soon complete six months of treatment," he said.

He said all treatment and testing had been provided free and on average the North Coast recorded fewer than 10 TB cases each year, well below the NSW average of 7-8 per 100,000 people and the Australian average of 5-6 people per 100,000.

In 2005 the North Coast had five confirmed cases of TB, below the neighbouring Hunter/New England region, which had 13 cases and way below the State's riskiest areas for TB, Parramatta, which recorded 115 confirmed TB cases in 2005 and Liverpool with 89.

The NCAHS provides TB information in the Somali and Filipino languages as well as English for the benefit of new migrants.

Although the number of people on the North Coast diagnosed with tuberculosis is insignificant compared with the hundreds of people diagnosed annually with sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and with mosquito-borne diseases like Ross River Fever, TB is far deadlier.

In 2005, 21 people died from TB in NSW and it was listed as one of three conditions associated with the largest number of deaths in NSW, behind invasive pneumococcal disease and HIV/AIDS.

More than 15 years ago a large number of children in the Coffs Harbour area were tested for tuberculosis after a school bus driver was diagnosed with TB.

Australians once hoped TB had been eradicated in this country thanks to antibiotic treatments for patients combined with testing, slaughter and vaccinations of dairy cows to eliminate TB from the food chain.

An intensive regime of chest X-Rays was also carried out in from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

While eradication is still the aim, the National Tuberculosis Advisory Committee is concerned with rising rates of TB.

Issues currently concerning NTAC include ensuring adequate pre-migration screening, especially of healthcare providers from high incidence TB and multidrug-resistant TB areas.

The committee is also concerned by the reduced availability of human tuberculin purified protein derivative for tuberculin skin testing and TB drugs for the treatment of cases.

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