Team targets Chuuk in TB battle
A Hawaii task force is responding to recent multidrug-resistant cases of tuberculosis
The state Health Department is taking action to try to protect Hawaii from exposure to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis after five recent cases resulting in four deaths in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia.
A task force is being formed to plan a coordinated response to the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis cases because travel to Hawaii from Micronesia "is pretty much allowed open door," said Health Director Chiyome Fukino.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was invited to assist with the cases on Chuuk, in the Caroline Islands, and a team finished an investigation July 25, said Dr. Jessie Wing, chief of the Health Department's Tuberculosis Control Branch and a CDC medical officer.
Such tuberculosis cases are resistant to Isoniazid and rifampin, two major drugs used to treat active TB. Other medications require much longer treatment, 18 to 24 months, and are much more costly, Wing said.
Tuberculosis is commonly seen in the lungs and can be spread from person to person through coughs, sneezes, speaking or singing. It is treatable and curable if identified early and treated with medications.
According to a Guam news report about the Chuuk cases, one patient who died was 2, and another was 16.
Fukino said it is hoped the CDC, using federal resources, will help Pacific nations screen and treat tuberculosis cases on their home islands before people travel.
Hawaii has one of the highest TB rates in the nation, reporting 115 active cases in 2006, or 8.9 cases per 100,000 population compared with a national rate of 4.6 cases per 100,000 population.
Wing said the Health Department had nine TB cases from Pacific island areas in 2006 and 20 last year. "It was 20 percent of our caseload and inching up," she said.
She said one multidrug-resistant TB case was reported in Hawaii last year, and none in 2006. This tracks with a national rate of about 1 percent per year, she said.
The TB Control Branch at Lanakila provides free screening to at-risk people and free treatment for anyone with latent or active TB.
The Health Department task force will include wide public and private representation from CDC, community clinics, U.S. Health and Human Services, the Honolulu Quarantine Station, regional airlines, Pacific Islands Health Officers Association, nations of Micronesia, military and other government, community and Pacific partners.