Via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: 'Ebola with wings': Expert raises alarm over deadly tuberculosis outbreak in PNG - Background Briefing. The author, Jo Chandler, contracted TB on the island of Daru and recently returned to find matters even worse. Excerpt:
I've been telling stories from Papua New Guinea for seven years, but this one got under my skin in a big way when tuberculosis stowed away with me back in 2011. Thanks to 18 months of intensive, toxic treatment in a first-class health system, I'm cured. But the episode bound me to this community and to the network of health and development specialists trying to bring this crisis under control.
In the past six months chatter and distress at the highest levels of the international health community about what's going on in Daru, and in PNG more widely, has reached fever pitch.
Underwriting this flashpoint is the most noble of ambitions—the cornerstone of medical ethics, to first do no harm. What happens when political sensitivities and economic realities bang up against medical imperatives? Do you quietly try to give your patient the best you can manage under the circumstances? Or do you shout loud for what you know the patient needs, and hang the consequences? This is the dilemma the doctors of Daru are wrestling with.
At the centre of unfolding drama is Dr Jennifer Furin, a Harvard University physician and anthropologist, and a world authority on TB. Hearing some worrying dispatches from PNG, she visited Daru last year.
'I arrived in Daru in early October 2015,' she says, 'and I went in expecting a very short and focused trip in which I helped get some patients started on the new TB drug bedaqualine.
'But within four to five hours of my arrival on Daru, and spending time at the hospital and reviewing the patients files and seeing some of the sick patients, it quickly became clear to me that I was seeing what I can only say is the worst outbreak of drug-resistant TB that I have ever witnessed in my career.'
Furin is regarded as one of the most experienced hands-on physicians working at the front line of drug-resistant TB. She's treated patients and run control efforts from the slums of Peru and South Africa and the jails of Siberia.
What she found in Daru put her in a tailspin. The outbreak was unprecedented, although not in terms of raw numbers—there have been bigger outbreaks. What was astonishing was the virulence and penetration of the spread, affecting around 1 per cent of the population.