10 Nov 2016

TB screening programme underway in Marshall Islands

3:39 pm on 10 November 2016

A mass tuberculosis (TB) screening program that could have global ramifications for control of the disease has been launched in the Marshall Islands.

Ebeye looking north

Ebeye looking north Photo: Anjojo Kabua

The Health Minister, Kalani Kaneko, said the first phase has made good progress, with an estimated 2,000 of Ebeye's 10,000 population seen by his staff.

The screening program for Ebeye Island is the first big initiative for lowering the high rate of tuberculosis in the Marshall Islands.

In 2014, Marshall Islands reported a TB prevalence rate of 466 per 100,000 population, the highest in the Pacific and one of the highest in the world.

Ebeye and Majuro have been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as two of three "TB hotspots" in the US affiliated Pacific island region.

The other is Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.

The first phase involves fingerprinting pre-registration of all residents, weight check ups, and nutrition counseling for mothers with babies or children identified as malnourished.

The fingerprinting is an initial step by the Ministry of Health to digitize records to improve tracking and management of patients.

The second phase starts in February with the actual TB screening and treatment. The program is supported by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.