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Updated Guidelines to Improve Tuberculosis Control

Updated Guidelines to Improve Tuberculosis Control in New Zealand

Latest guidelines on tuberculosis produced by the Ministry of Health are intended to help control the disease in New Zealand, the authors of the report said today.

The new document posted on the web this week, Guidelines for Tuberculosis Control in New Zealand 2003, provides the latest information to frontline health workers, laboratories and clinics on the best ways to treat someone who has been exposed to or diagnosed with TB.

They were edited by Dr Lester Calder, an Auckland Medical Officer of Health, and Dr Adrian Harrison, a chest physician and TB specialist at Greenlane Hospital.

"Since 1996, when the previous guidelines were produced by the Ministry of Health, an enormous amount of literature has been published on TB treatment and prevention," said Dr Adrian Harrison.

"The new guidelines reflect those developments in controlling TB. They will give health workers the latest information on the disease and its treatment."

For example in recent years, one of the major problems in controlling TB has been the evolution of new strains that are resistant to some antibiotics.

"The World Health Organisation recognises that these new strains threaten efforts for worldwide control of the disease. Given a course of treatment can last up to two years, and the need to control TB resistance, it is obviously important that patients take the full course of drugs," said Dr Harrison.

"The new material in the guidelines outlines procedures for situations where treatment should be supervised, and where doses are missed the Medical Officer of Health is to be notified."

Other recommendations include tightening screening for those coming into the country for an extended period, and a checkup of all new prison inmates to ensure prompt treatment if they have TB.

"These issues are already being looked at by the Corrections and Immigration departments." said Dr Lester Calder.

"For example, last week the Government announced a combined Ministry of Health and Department of Corrections trial screening for communicable diseases at Christchurch prison. This will include identifying and treating tuberculosis."

"Also the Government is already considering tightening the rules around screening TB for inbound travellers and migrants," said Dr Calder.

There will also be a guidelines summary available early next year for primary care professionals such as GPs, to assist them in diagnosing, treating and preventing TB.

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