The mining sector has been identified as one of the Tubercolosis (TB) hotspots by some speakers at the 5th South African TB conference underway in Durban. Other hotspots include urban informal settlements and prisons.

Speaking on the side lines of the TB conference, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant says the mining and safety council has worked out a system of dust reduction in mines.

“We understand that in the past TB was not necessarily caused by overcrowding. The dust levels in the mining industry have been very high and silica dust  and other dust and coal or any dust is a cause of TB. In fact the TB incidents  in the mines and the prisons are the highest.

“But now in the process of overcrowding in the mines, it is because of the dust. So we have systematically through the mining and safety council worked a system of dust  reduction in the mining industry and the incidences of TB have gone very low. Having said that the mining companies are obliged  by the law to test the workers. In fact HIV/Aids and TB as the twins, in this era diseases mines have done very well.”

Meanwhile, Professor Keertan Dheda of the University of Cape Town says health care workers need to look for undiagnosed TB patients. He has presented a paper on closing the diagnostic gap at the conference.  This year’s theme is “Step Up- Let’s Embrace All to End TB”.

South Africa has set a target of finding at least 160 000 undiagnosed patients every year. Day two of the conference focused largely on finding the estimated over 150 000 undiagnosed TB patients in South Africa that have the potential to spread the diseases in their communities.

Provinces with the highest number of TB infections are KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Western Cape. Professor Keertan Dheda of the University of Cape Town says health care workers need look for undiagnosed TB patients.

He says one person with undiagnosed TB can infect over 15 people. “ To eliminate TB we have to stop transmission you all know that but 90 percent of  transmission has already  occurred prior to presentation to health care facilities  so by the time we get our patients coming to the clinics and get the GeneXpert ultra test they have already infected 15 or 20 other people so we have to go out and   find these missing cases and failing to use active case finding in contra case finding means that we have to go out and find the case rather than waiting for people to access health care failing to use active case finding to address transmission is a keen to try to mob up the burden of TB without turning off the tab.”

Chief Director in the national Health Department David Mametja says another way of finding the missing, undiagnosed TB patients is to simply screen every patient visiting a health facility.  “When it comes to optimised TB screening, there is a lot that we can say about that but we are saying every time there is a person in a clinic or in a hospital that is an opportunity for TB screening they are there, you do not have to do anything else to bring them to that health facility every attendee must screened for TB.”

The conference is further expected to look at innovative ways of finding and treating the disease. Click below for more on the story: