It is not an indication that tuberculosis is a problem in the Cook Islands, but is designed to help minimise the spread of the disease, says Health secretary Dr Josephine Herman.
“We do not screen visitors to the Cook Islands and therefore (anyone) with TB could spread the bacteria to residents here.”
She said the last TB case recorded in the Cook Islands was in 2016 and the patient completed treatment.
TB screening had been part of the immigration medical clearance requirements for contract workers, for many years, Dr Herman said.
And she emphasised the importance of taking the screening seriously.
She said a more formal screening process similar to that used in New Zealand was introduced in 2008.
“TB is endemic in some Pacific island countries such as Papua New Guinea. It is caused by bacteria, not a virus.”
Amidst media reports that the disease appears to be making a comeback in some parts of the world, the World Health Organisation says TB is a potentially serious (and sometimes fatal) bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs.
It spreads from one person to another via droplets released into the air through coughing and sneezing, and when active presents itself with symptoms including cough, weight loss, fatigue and fever. It has two main forms: The first – active TB, is highly dangerous, but can be identified before it becomes active and be treated before it becomes a threat. This second form is called latent TB infection (LTBI), which has no signs or symptoms and hasn’t reached the contagious stage.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says about a quarter of the world's population has LTBI. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 80 per cent of US TB cases are tied to the reactivation of longstanding, untreated LTBI. People living with the latent disease may not know they have it, given its silent symptoms, and many people aren't diagnosed until their TB becomes active.
People with weakened immune systems, either from medical conditions or from immunosuppressive medications, and those who are from or who have recently travelled to high-risk areas at heightened risk of infection.
WHO says TB in children is particularly dangerous due to their relatively immature immune systems. They are more prone to active disease, and because of the disease's often vague symptoms, such as coughing, fever and fatigue.
- Losirene Lacanivalu/Release