MR ENTSCH: It is a tragic fact that, although tuberculosis is a preventable and curable disease, 10 million people on this planet develop it every year, of whom about 1.6 million die.
TB is a disease that most people thought was a thing of the past and is isolated to small pockets in some more impoverished countries.
I for one had also assumed the disease was no longer an issue, but nothing could be further from the truth.
My mother was in inflicted with TB in the early sixties and spent a year in the Cairns base hospital.
Let me assure you: it had a profound impact on my family.
The reality is TB is the largest infectious disease killer in the world, and what’s more worrying are the increasing number of drug-resistant tuberculosis cases worldwide, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Drug-resistant TB is more expensive to treat and the survival rate is only half.
Multidrug-resistant TB is difficult to diagnose and treat due to the use of old diagnostics and toxic, arduous treatment regimes.
Experts have estimated that as many as 75 million additional people will die by 2050 due to the continued development of multidrug-resistant and extensive multidrug-resistant strains of TB.
These are very sobering facts.
Last year was a big year for the worldwide TB community.
A United Nations high-level meeting on tuberculosis was held on 26 September in the General Assembly of the United Nations, providing the highest-level political platform ever convened to address the TB epidemic.
It’s fantastic to see the Australian government, led by Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne, along with several other countries, pledge its support in ending the TB epidemic.
Twelve of the world’s 30 highest TB-burdened countries are located in our region, accounting for nearly half of the cases of drug-resistant TB and TB deaths worldwide.
The incidence rate of TB in several of our neighbouring countries is very high, particularly in Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and a number of our Pacific island nations.
TB has no respect for national borders.
The stark reality is that, with modern travel, TB can be transmitted anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours.
Take Papua New Guinea, for example.
The distance between our outer Torres Strait Islands and the coastal villages in the western province of Papua New Guinea, which is the boundary of the northern part of my electorate, is less than four kilometres.
The known average for TB up there is 432 TB cases per 100,000 people.
Sadly, however, this figure is much, much higher, because the majority of TB victims living in Papua New Guinea are dying undiagnosed.
Although TB is on the decline in Australia, there are, sadly, still around 1,400 TB cases every year.
The incidence rate of Australian-born cases is lower, at one case per 100,000 people, but relatively higher in Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, with 5.9 cases per 100,000 people.
There is an alarming increase in this disease being identified in the Torres Strait, with the majority of patients being treated on Thursday Island and in the Cairns Hospital.
Although rates of TB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities are small, they are still six or seven times higher than in non-Indigenous Australian-born people. With respect to states and territories, the highest TB incidence rate is in the Northern Territory, with 25 cases per 100,000 people.
In Queensland we have 6.2 cases per 100,000 people.
There has never been a communicable disease that hasn’t been cured without a vaccine, and this is where our focus should be.
I’d like to acknowledge James Cook University in Cairns.
Through the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, it has established a research group, led by Professor Louis Schofield, that focuses exclusively on the development of a TB vaccine.
No-one should die of TB. It’s a disease that has been ignored for too long.
It’s a disease that can be cured, and it needs to be cured.
Australia needs to continue to stand up and be counted, and lead the charge in the fight against TB.
We’re not talking about a disease in a faraway land;
TB is already on our doorstep.
I’d like everybody here today to take a few seconds to think about this: humans generally blink every three seconds.
Every three seconds, someone in the world contracts TB.
There is one death from TB every three minutes, all of which can be cured and avoided.