The Ministry of Health today confirmed it has conducted a routine tuberculosis (TB) screening of staff and inmates at Maafushi prison after a single case of the disease was diagnosed at the facility.
Health Minister Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed today told Minivan News that a screening for TB had been undertaken at the prison, but added that just a single inmate had tested positive and been diagnosed with the disease.
The screening comes a month after the country’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) warned that a drug resistant strain of TB had been found in the Maldives, posing a “quite a serious” health threat for authorities to deal with.
However, Dr Jamsheed said today that there was no information at present to suggest the single case of TB detected at Maafushi Prison was a drug resistant form of the disease.
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 an infected person.
Despite praising authorities for their efforts to eradicate the disease across the Maldives in recent years, the WHO has expressed concern that drug-resistant strains of TB have become a major public health problem resulting from patients not fully completing the recommended six-month course of treatment.
The Ministry of Health released a report earlier this year concluding that authorities in the Maldives were facing new challenges controlling the disease.
HPA Public Health Program Officer Shina Ahmed told Minivan News shortly after the report’s publication in March 2013 that although the new strain of TB was “quite serious”, thus far cases of the disease in the Maldives were 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,” Shina said at the time.
“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.”
In April 2012, staff at the Maldives Criminal Court were screened by health authorities for TB after an employee was found to have tested positive for the disease.
International health authorities have previously observed that the Maldives had achieved notable success in TB control since the establishment of a national control program 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 meeting the global targets for TB control since 1996, according to the 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, declined to about 0.66 per 1000 by 1996, according to the findings.
However, last year the Health Ministry raised concerns over the growing number of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases in the Maldives.
The rate of TB prevalence among the country’s expatriate population is also reportedly on the rise as well. “A large migrant workforce from high TB-burden countries,” continues to identified by the WHO as major challenge for local health bodies.