T.B. in S.A. – it’s B.A.D.

Following a myriad of complaints about my absence, I’m back.
When I say “myriad”, it was actually three complaints. And two of them were by the same person.
But who’s au fait with the literal meaning of “myriad”, anyway?

Top of the list for today is TB. I work with the stuff and it’s just great.
That’s because I work with it and I don’t have it. Having TB is obviously a completely different kettle of fish. And having XDR-TB (that’s “eXtensively Drug Resistant” TB) is almost certainly even worse.
South Africa has a big TB problem and, like many countries with a big TB problem, it also has issues with the drug resistant forms of the disease and how to effectively treat them.

The USA woke up to the threat of XDR-TB earlier this year with the Andrew Speaker case. Here’s the wikipedia link, rather grandly entitled the “2007 tuberculosis scare”.
How pathetic. I have a “tuberculosis scare” each time I go to the local supermarket.

Compare then, and contrast if you will, the terminology used in this Cape Times article, which claims that 3 patients have “escaped” or “absconded” from the isolation unit at the local hospital. The Department of Health, bless them, have been quick to point out that while there are laws allowing authorities to detain XDR-TB patients, they cannot legally force them to take their (rather unpleasant) medication anyway.

It opens up a huge can of worms. I reluctantly accept that these patients’ human rights would be violated if they were forced to take medication, but they are surely violating the human rights of others by leaving their isolation wards and living amongst their families and communities. Perhaps there is a case for returning to the old days of “Typhoid Mary” and mandatory detention and enforced medication for patients with highly contagious infectious diseases. I can just imagine the faces of my liberal readership (now my liberal ex-readership) as I suggested that. They’ll change their tune when they’ve got an XDR-TB case living next door to them and their kids though. Liberals do that.
Essentially though, we’re just delaying the inevitable. XDR is the big, bad brother of TB. It has tattoos, a criminal record and growls instead of talking. It wears a leather bikers jacket and doesn’t shave. It has friends in high places and enjoys tea and scones with Jackie Selebi each Friday.
It’s only a matter of time until we see an explosion of cases here in SA. Unless we push through those mandatory medication laws.
And that’s not going to happen.

Anyway, while we have three patients “on the run”, Andrew Speaker has been on national TV being interviewed by Larry King, no less. Bless our American friends. Life certainly is “different” over there.

Going back to our local case, it’s entirely possible the three escapee patients just left because they got fed up with the food.
After all, their diet in hospital consists solely of pizza and pancakes.
I once asked a doctor at one of the isolation units if this had any specific health benefits for them.
“No”, he replied, “but that’s all we can slide under the door…”

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