Tuberculosis

31 March 2008

Govt helping spread TB - IFP

The provincial government may inadvertently be helping to spread the XDR-TB virus, the Inkatha Freedom Party's Lionel Mtshali said in its weekly letter.

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The provincial government may inadvertently be helping to spread the extreme-drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) virus, the Inkatha Freedom Party's Lionel Mtshali said in its weekly letter.

The provincial government, he said, needed to address the XDR-TB crisis holistically. This comes more than a week after 33 multi-drug-resistant (MDR) and XDR-TB patients escaped from the Jose Pearson hospital in the Eastern Cape. By late last week, at least 21 of the patients had returned to the hospital.

With KwaZulu-Natal having the most cases of XDR-TB, Mtshali said the government needed to address the crisis sensitively. He said in KwaZulu-Natal, XDR-TB patients were routinely discharged after six months of treatment "even if they remain infectious".

This, he said, was done to make room for new patients who presumably had a better chance of being cured. As more beds were being added to hospitals to treat XDR-TB patients, he said other patients were being discharged. " ... by discharging patients who are potentially infectious, the provincial government may inadvertently be helping to spread the often deadly virus in the communities where the uncured patients return," Mtshali said.

He explained that the treatment for XDR-TB was cumbersome, long and costly, and that patients sometimes required uninterrupted treatment for as long as two years.

Across South Africa, the XDR-TB crisis has been complicated further, said Mtshali, as the different provinces took different approaches in deciding how long to hospitalise people with drug-resistant TB. –(Sapa)

March 2008

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