The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has warned that a new drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis (TB) that has appeared in the Maldives poses “quite a serious threat” to people’s health.
The agency’s comments follow a report released by the Ministry of Health on Sunday (March 24), revealing that it faces new challenges in order to control the disease in the Maldives.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), TB is an infectious bacterial disease that can be transmitted via droplets in the throat and lungs of the infected.
WHO states that drug-resistant strains of TB have become a major public health problem that has resulted from patients not fully completing the recommended six-month course of treatment.
HPA Public Health Program Officer Shina Ahmed told Minivan News today (March 25) that although the new strain of TB is “quite serious”, the particular strain found in the Maldives is not resistant to every drug available to patients.
“We have had a few cases come in now with the new strain. The most important thing we have to do is to continue and complete the course of treatment.
“Most of these drug-resistant strains are caused by patients stopping the treatment. We have enough drug supplies to give to them, but because the course goes on for six months, patients tend to go off taking the treatment towards the end,” Shina said.
Local media reported that the Health Ministry had revealed that 10,563 people had been registered to receive treatment for TB since 1963, out of which 5,256 people were said to have infected lungs.
Shina claimed that the majority of cases within the Maldives have been reported on the islands as opposed to Male’, and that in order to prevent the spread of the disease the HPA will be undertaking awareness programs.
An official from Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’ stated that there was no need for the public to be concerned in regard to the spread of the disease, adding that there may have been only “one or two” cases found to have contracted the new strain.
“When we find a patient who is not responding to the prescribed course of treatment, there is always a second course they can take instead,” the official told Minivan News.
According to WHO, healthy individuals infected with TB are not often affected by any symptoms as the person’s immune system acts to “wall off” the bacteria.
The organisation states that symptoms of active TB are coughing, sometimes with blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
The WHO Representative to the Maldives, Dr Akjemal Magtymova, Health Minister Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed and the Health Ministry were not responding to calls at time of press.