PETER MICHAEL | The Courier-Mail (Brisbane)
HEALTH OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN ACCUSED of not doing enough to prevent an outbreak of a mutant strain of the killer lung disease tuberculosis spreading from Papua New Guinea into north Queensland.
But the health authorities claim there is little to worry about.
The Courier-Mail on Friday revealed one of Australia's first cases of mutated XDR-TB (Extensively Drug-Resistant TB) in Catherine Abraham, 20, from PNG’s Western Province, who is being treated in isolation at Cairns Base Hospital.
Experts warn she is the first in a wave before the highly contagious, incurable, untreatable form of TB spreads.
But Queensland's chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young has played down the immediate threat.
"Queensland is not at risk but certainly PNG is at risk if we don't assist them as much as possible," she said.
Queensland taxpayers footed a $32 million bill for the treatment for tuberculosis of about 100 Papua New Guineans over the past two years, with 92 patients handed back by Queensland Health in June - 65 of them fully treated.
The Australian Senate Estimates Committee heard on Thursday that, of AusAID's $104 million allocation to the PNG health sector, only $5.8 million was for programs relating to tuberculosis, of which PNG has the world's highest infection rate.
Opposition Parliamentary Secretary Teresa Gambaro said: "PNG is our nearest neighbour we need to be doing more."