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Last updateFri, 22 Feb 2019 12am







    Wednesday, February 20, 2019-9:11:15A.M.






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Regional News

Majuro TB screening in high gear

MAJURO — Over 5,000 Majuro residents have been screened for tuberculosis or TB and leprosy during the first three weeks of a mass-screening program that aims to check 90 percent of the population of the Marshall Islands capital of 30,000.

The strong start to the four-month health intervention puts the Ministry of Health and Human Services on track for accomplishing its goal of screening 26,000 people over the coming weeks of the program.

The Marshall Islands has one of the highest rates of TB in the world, and the results from the first several weeks confirm the seriousness of the problem.

The ministry had warned at the outset of the screening that it expected to find one in four people positive for “latent” (non-active) TB. The results from the first three weeks confirm this early prediction: of the 4,099 people who completed TB screening, 1,036 — 25 percent — were diagnosed with latent TB and started on treatment. In addition, 38 people, including several children, were found to have active TB, which is contagious. The ministry said they were also started on treatment.

The second step of the screening identifies and treats people with Hansen’s Disease or leprosy. The ministry reported 13 new cases of leprosy were identified and the people were referred for treatment.

The Majuro screening and treatment program follows a successful TB screening program last year on Ebeye Island, the second urban center in the Marshall Islands. Health officials said last year’s screening and treatment program cut Ebeye’s TB rate in half.

 “The current TB case load will continue to rise (in Majuro) over the next two months (as screening continues),” said the ministry in a report detailing results of the first three weeks of the screening program.

In addition to the people identified with latent and active TB, “more than 100 individuals with concerning x-rays are awaiting TB culture results from (a laboratory) in Hawaii.”

Everyone 10 years and older is receiving a chest x-ray to check for TB. Portable x-ray equipment is on hand at two public elementary schools being used as screening centers.

The ministry said it is averaging over 300 people screened per day.

Although the ongoing mass-screening program in Majuro is focused on identifying and treating TB and leprosy, health staff is also screening people for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

During the first three weeks of the screening, 1,017 “high-risk people” were tested for diabetes. Of these, 277 showed blood sugar levels confirming them as diabetics. The 277 with diabetes represents 27 percent of the 1,017 people checked for high blood sugar levels.