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Tragic TB death a stark reminder of real threat

By Maree Nutt - posted Thursday, 28 March 2013


Ignoring tuberculosis in Australia has been easy for most of us.

After all, it doesn't sound like a very 21stcentury disease. Surely by now we have relegated it to the pages of classical literature?

Yet the recent death of a woman in Queensland from a dangerous strain of TB that can take years to cure should serve as a serious wake-up call.

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This airborne killer is potentially on the rise if we don't act decisively to check it now.

Drug-resistant strains from India to South Africa to the USA are making international headlines, including a recent TIME magazine cover.

Yet despite all this, in Australia, the threat can still seem remote. It shouldn't.

New Yorkers were not expecting TB to rip through their city in the 1980s, when infections doubled from 23 in every 100,000 to 50 between 1984 and 1991.

Today, our neighbours in the Asia Pacific region are home to approximately 60 per cent of all TB cases in the world.

The problem of TB in Papua New Guinea is very much our problem, given its proximity to Australian territories in the Torres Strait. 20-year-old Catherina Abraham from PNG became Australia's first victim of the dangerous strain of TB when she passed away in Queensland in March.

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In fact, 4,000 people across the planet still die every day from TB. Fake drugs, drug shortages, and general political neglect fuel the spread of TB and allow drug-resistant forms to evolve.

Yet despite the alarming numbers, for the first time in human history wiping TB from the face of the earth is actually within our grasp.

We have the knowledge and ideas to get to zero TB deaths and zero new TB infections within most lifetimes.

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World TB Day is an international day of observance for those who have fallen victim to TB and occurs on March 24 each year.



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About the Author

Maree Nutt is the National Manager of RESULTS International (Australia), a non-partisan, non-profit, international network of volunteers whose purpose is to generate the public and political will to end poverty. She has worked closely with politicians on both sides of government and advises aid agencies like AusAID on proven and effective methods of poverty alleviation.

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