Public health workers screened Criminal Court staff for tuberculosis (TB) and conducted awareness sessions about the disease on Thursday after an employee tested positive for the infectious disease.
A court employee told Minivan News today that staff were relieved health officials were now working to put a stop to the potential spread of tuberculosis at the court. However, the member of staff said their colleagues were “seriously concerned after one employee was tested positive”.
The employee speculated that the disease may have been transmitted to the court employee from a TB patient, who was brought to the court two months ago for a police custody extension.
Local media has reported that three court employees are thought to have tested positive for the disease so far. These reports were today dismissed by court workers.
The staff member observed that the local media had picked up on the TB case because of the awareness session being held at the court today, while claiming that reports of multiple confirmed cases was misleading.
“It was just one confirmed but everyone was very scared. All the employees have been screened now and nobody else was tested positive. But since there was widespread scare, doctors came to the court today and gave us information on TB,” the employee noted on condition of anonymity. “There was some concerns but everything is normal at the court now,” he added.
The potentially serious disease spreads from person-to-person through the air, for example, if someone coughs or sneezes. It primarily attacks the lungs.
Despite, the TB scare at the Criminal Court, the Maldives has achieved notable success in TB control since the establishment of a National TB control programme (NTP) by the Department of Public Health in 1976. Maldives has an estimated incidence of 47 per 100,000 population of all forms of TB and has sustained the global targets for TB control since 1996, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) communicable disease department for South East Asia.
Tuberculosis, which had a prevalence in the Maldives of 35 cases per thousand people in 1974, had declined in 1996 to about 0.66 per 1000. Childhood TB (under 5 years) is almost nil for the past three years due to the high rate of BCG vaccination, the report added.
The WHO also observed that upon adopting the recommended Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) in 1997, the TB patients in the Maldives continues to receive effective treatment.
However, the Health Ministry has recently raised concerns over a growing number of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Maldives. The rate of TB prevalence among the country’s expatriate population is also reportedly on the rise as well.
“Large migrant workforce from high TB-burden countries,” is identified by the WHO as major challenge for local health bodies. However, the WHO has claimed that “MDR-TB and TB-HIV are not major problems in Maldives.”
Meanwhile, a growing diagnoses of multi drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and treatment sites are being established in the region. In 2010, almost 4000 MDR-TB patients were put on treatment. There are currently 105,000 MDR-TB cases estimated of affecting the region. These figures were taken from the WHO annual report on tuberculosis titled “Tuberculosis Control in the South-East Asia Region 2012”.
The South-East Asia Region registered an estimated five million prevalent, and about 3.5 million incident TB cases in 2010. Though the death rates in the region have declined due to successful implementation of the DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course), the disease still claims about half a million lives a year in the Region, the report read.