TB REACH needs to be funded

Stopping the spread of tuberculosis should be an election issue

To the editor:

Congratulations are in order for the British Columbia Interior Health Authority (IHA).

After seven long years, the Tuberculosis (TB) outbreak in Kelowna has ended.

It started in 2008 with one person with regular TB. Kelowna Dr Sue Pollock said, “They [TB outbreaks] typically last several years and require a tremendous amount of resources and community co-ordination to bring under control.”

Approximately 2,400 people were screened for infectious TB and 52 people were treated.

Upgrades to hospital isolation wards and updates to staff training and clinical support tools were needed.

Medical health officers and communicable disease workers worked closely with community outreach services, including street nurses, shelters and community agencies. It cost B.C. taxpayers millions – all from one case of regular TB.

We are on the verge of a global epidemic. The key is early detection and treatment for every single case everywhere.

Failure is unthinkable.

Canadian funded TB REACH is a phenomenally successful program for finding TB in the hardest to reach places in the world.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has not renewed the funding. We simply can’t afford to let this program expire.

To stop tiny, Kelowna size outbreaks all across Canada, we need to stop outbreaks everywhere.

Please help: Contact your MP, your federal election candidates, write letters to your newspapers, tell everyone that you want TB taken seriously, and to fund TB REACH.

We still have a chance to prevent a global TB epidemic and prevent budget busting outbreaks all across Canada.

Leo Joy