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SA government moves to control tuberculosis outbreak on APY Lands

Callan Morse -

The South Australian government has bolstered efforts to counter a rising tuberculosis outbreak on the state's Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

More than 700 people have been screened for the potentially life-threatening disease, which was first declared as an outbreak within the Aṉangu community in March.

Recent genomic sequencing has confirmed 13 infections linked to the outbreak, 11 of which are active, with one of two historic cases resulting in a death.

Ongoing community-wide screening has focused on those most at-risk including close contacts and school children.

South Australian Minister for Health Chris Picton said he has been visiting the APY Lands this week to see the first-hand impact of SA Health's response.

"Tuberculosis is preventable and curable and we are committed to doing all we can to stop this cluster from growing. We are promoting awareness and facilitating quick testing and treatment," Mr Picton said.

"Our response is built on strong relationships with the APY Lands Anangu Community and service providers and valuing local expertise through employing local people to deliver care and engagement."

A $1.9 million state government investment package announced in June is supporting efforts to fight the outbreak, with tailored community engagement and education being offered whilst upskilling health practitioners who may not have seen cases of Tuberculosis in their clinical practice before.

SA TB Services clinical director Dr Simone Barry said the health response is aiming to eliminate the disease from the APY Lands community.

"Outbreaks of Tuberculosis are not common in Australia but when they do occur, it is important that they are promptly managed to treat, contain and eliminate the disease," Dr Barry said.

"Our clinical work has been made possible thanks to the collaborative input from Nganampa Health Council and we are very grateful to have been given access to their clinical facilities and staff expertise."

The Aboriginal Public Health team from the Department for Health and Wellbeing, SA TB Services within the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA Pathology and South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI) have been working closely with the Nganampa Health Council (NHC) and local Anangu community leaders to coordinate testing, screening, contact tracing and treatment for those who require it.

So far, the response teams have undertaken five deployment trips to the APY Lands since December, to meet with community, conduct community screening, coordinate healthcare and deliver communication materials in language.

South Australian Chief Public Health officer, Professor, Nicola Spurrier said the combined response is is aligned with the national strategy to eliminate Tuberculosis transmission.

"Unlike some other diseases, active Tuberculosis can take years to develop after being infected, and months of complex medication to treat," Professor Spurrier said.

"We have strong partnerships and will be continuing our efforts for many more months to support the communities on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands."

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