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South Africa Announces Initiative To Test Thousands Of Miners For TB

“South Africa wants to test hundreds of thousands of miners for tuberculosis [TB] and ensure sufferers get treatment over the next year,” David Mametja, head of South African National Department of Health’s TB program, said Tuesday at a workshop organized by the Stop TB Partnership, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Mametja “said the government is concerned the high prevalence of the disease among miners is holding an entire region back in the fight against TB,” and that while “it may be impossible to reach the nearly 600,000 miners in South Africa in one year, even those at highest risk in the gold industry, … setting an ambitious target is a way to show ‘it’s not business as usual,'” the AP writes.

“Gold mining is of particular concern because it has been linked to silicosis, an incurable lung disease that increases vulnerability to TB,” the news service notes. “Some fear a testing campaign will overwhelm the health system with new TB patients, Mametja said,” the AP writes, adding, “But given that an infected person who is untreated can infect 10-15 other people in a year, and that late-stage TB is much more difficult and expensive to treat, Mametja said testing was crucial” (3/6).

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