- The New York Times reported recently that more than a
year after a virulent and particularly deadly strain of tuberculosis started
killing hundreds of people all over South Africa, experts here and abroad
are warning that that country's Extremely-Drugs-Resistance Tuberculosis
epidemic has 'more than likely spread to neighboring countries"
-- and that urgent action is essential to halt its advance across the
rest of the globe. The South African form of XDR-TB is a unique, mutant
strain combining the TB bacillus with the Aids-virus and kills its sufferers
within 14 to 20 days of infection.
- Other XDR-TB outbreaks undetected 'because the patients
die very quickly"...
- Quote: "Because South Africa's treatment and reporting
programs for tuberculosis are notoriously poor - barely half of TB patients
are cured - virtually all experts contend the true rate of infection
is much greater."
- "We're really concerned that there may be similar
outbreaks to the one in Tugela Ferry (KwaZulu-Natal province) that are
currently going undetected because the patients die very quickly,"
said Dr. Karin Weyer, who directs tuberculosis programs for South Africa's
Medical Research Council, a semiofficial research arm of the government.
- Other researchers and experts share Dr. Weyer's concern.
They say South African health officials have lagged badly in assembling
the epidemiological studies, treatment programs and skilled clinicians
needed to combat the outbreak, and say the SA government has responded
slowly to international offers of help. the ANC-regime's sluggish response
(to this latest health emergency) could prove hugely expensive to contain
and could threaten many millions across sub-Saharan Africa."
- Since the (start of the present epidemic) was first detected
last year in KwaZulu-Natal Province additional cases have been found at
39 hospitals in South Africa's other eight provinces. In interviews with
the New York Times, several epidemiologists and TB experts said the disease
had 'probably moved into Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique - countries
that share borders and migrant work forces with South Africa - and perhaps
to Zimbabwe, which sends hundreds of thousands of destitute refugees to
and from South Africa each year.'
- But no one can say with certainty: none of those countries
have the laboratories and clinical experts necessary to diagnose and track
the disease. Ominously, none have the money and skills that would be
needed to contain it should it begin to spread."
- "We don't understand the extent of it, and whether
it's more widespread than anyone thinks," Mario C. Raviglione, the
director of the Stop TB Department of the World Health Organization in
Geneva, said in a telephone interview. "And if we don't know what
has caused it, then we don't know how to stop it."
- The South African outbreak is considered far more alarming
than those elsewhere, because it is not only far larger, but has surfaced
at the center of the world's H.I.V. pandemic.
- Two in three of the 6-million South African TB-sufferers
- Although one third of the world's people, by W.H.O. estimates,
are infected with dormant tuberculosis germs, the disease thrives when
immune systems are weakened by H.I.V.
- At least two in three South African TB sufferers are
- Should XDR TB gain a foothold in the H.I.V.-positive
population, it could wreak havoc not only among the six million South
Africans who carry the virus, but the tens of millions more throughout
sub- Saharan Africa, the New York Times warned.
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