Via The Washington Post, a report by The Associated Press: South Africa sets goal of testing all miners for tuberculosis, getting sufferers treated. Excerpt:
South Africa wants to test hundreds of thousands of miners for tuberculosis and ensure sufferers get treatment over the next year, a government health official said Tuesday.
Dr. David Mametja, head of the government’s TB fighting program, said the government is concerned the high prevalence of the disease among miners is holding an entire region back in the fight against TB.
He said it may be impossible to reach the nearly 600,000 miners in South Africa in one year, even those at highest risk in the gold industry, but that setting an ambitious targets is a way to show “it’s not business as usual.”
Mametja spoke to reporters at a workshop organized by the Stop TB Partnership, which brings together the U.N.’s World Health Organization and some 1,000 governments and private groups around the world to fight the disease.
The partnership says that Africa is the only region in the world likely to miss the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving TB deaths by 2015, and that the high numbers of miners with TB is driving the crisis. Gold mining is of particular concern because it has been linked to silicosis, an incurable lung disease that increases vulnerability to TB.
South Africa’s mining industry draws workers from neighboring countries and beyond. Dr. Llang Maama-Maime, a government TB expert from Lesotho who joined Tuesday’s workshop, described some of the challenges that presents.
Some 33,000 Lesotho citizens are working in South African mines, she said. Those among them diagnosed with TB might start treatment in South Africa, and not follow up at home. Stopping treatment increases the chances a TB case will grow resistance to drugs.