The tuberculosis rate in the CNMI is comparatively higher to the case rates in the U.S. mainland.
Dr. Phuong Luu, medical director for Public Health at the Commonwealth Health Center, noted that the CNMI’s case rate for tuberculosis is about 70 cases per 100,000.
“…Compared to the U.S. mainland, that is 17 times higher [and] nine times the rate higher in Hawaii. …We are at par with Guam and much less than the Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia,” she said in an interview at the start of the annual Pacific Islands TB Control Association conference yesterday at the Fiesta Resort and Spa’s Hibiscus Hall.
Luu was representing the CNMI at the conference, which is the first time it is being hosted in the Marianas. Last year’s conference was held in Hawaii.
Luu noted that the disease is a bacterial infection caused by the mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria most often affects the lungs of an individual, and is a curable and preventable. If left untreated, however, tuberculosis is fatal.
“We’ve had really good drugs for the past 150 years after [a doctor] discovered that it was a bacteria,” Luu said, adding that tuberculosis was previously believed to be obtained from colds and other airborne elements. “They didn’t actually confirm that it was a bacterial infection until the early 1900s.”
Compared to China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, the CNMI tuberculosis rate is miniscule, she said. The Philippines’ case rate is about 500 cases per 100,000, according to Luu.
Experts from the World Health Organization, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Australian Respiratory Council, Southeastern National Tuberculosis Center, Heartland Tuberculosis Center, and Rutgers Global TB Center, among others, are attending the two-day conference, which ends today.