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Canada: Saskatchewan Aboriginals Still Face Tuberculosis Threat, Doctor Warns

March 26, 2003

Tuberculosis continues to threaten lives around the world and remains at high levels among Saskatchewan aboriginal people, says Dr. Brian Graham, Canadian Lung Association's vice president in charge of TB. "Although TB is well-controlled in Canada, we cannot afford to be complacent about it, either in this country or overseas," said Graham.

There has been a marked shift in the appearance of TB in Canada over the last several years, Graham said. "Sixty-two percent of the cases actually originate outside Canada," he noted. "The number of cases in Canadian-born aboriginals is now higher than in Canadian-born non-aboriginals."

Canada-wide, there were 1,703 cases of TB in 2001, for an average of 5.5 cases per 100,000 people. However, Saskatchewan's rate is double that, Graham said. "In Saskatchewan, we had 114 cases of TB and 97 of those were in the aboriginal population."

For non-aboriginals, the TB epidemic began during the Industrial Revolution. The TB epidemic among aboriginal people began when they were placed on reservations, said Graham. TB takes a long time to work through a community, which is why aboriginals are still struggling to beat the disease. TB death rates in Canada are extremely low, said Graham, due to effective medications, although vaccines offer a low protection rate.

On the international front, Graham wants Canada to take the international TB situation seriously. "Canada needs to do its share," he said. Despite the availability of life-saving drugs, this year will see the most global deaths from TB than any other year in history. "It is a global emergency. It only takes $12 to $13 Canadian [US$8-$8.83] to cure it, and still we have all these people dying," he said. Graham was attending an Ottawa meeting discussing Canada's responsibility under a three-year-old G8 agreement to fight TB.

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Excerpted from:
Star Phoenix (Saskatoon)
03.24.03; Joanne Paulson




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