QUEENSLAND: A Torres Strait Islander woman has died from an apparent drug resistant strain of tuberculosis (TB), becoming the first Australian in several years to succumb to the disease.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeanette Young on Friday confirmed the 20-year-old’s death on April 25.
Dr Young says it is yet to be determined how she contracted the illness, but she frequently visited Papua New Guinea, which has one of the world’s highest incident rates.
She says it is likely her particular infection became resistant to medication because she probably had a lapse in treatment rather than contracting a super-strain from somebody else.
“That’s the most likely scenario here, but until we’ve done all our testing I’m hypothesising a bit, which I don’t like to do,” she said.
Dr Young said the woman’s death was the first case in recent history of someone from Australia dying from TB.
“It’s rare in Australia to contract TB in the first place and it’s also then very rare to die of complications due to TB,” she said.
Additional tests are being carried out to confirm whether the woman had multi-resistant drug tuberculosis.
A young woman from Papua New Guinea died in Cairns in March after contracting a drug-resistant strain of TB.
Fears had been raised that the closure of tuberculosis clinics last year in the Torres Strait for Papua New Guineans would lead to an outbreak of the disease in Queensland.
However, Dr Young said at the time there was no threat of that happening as the federal government’s AusAid program in PNG has reduced the risk of people with tuberculosis coming into Australia.