Courier Mail (Australia (08.19.2013)
Professor Ian Wronski, James Cook University (JCU) pro-vice-chancellor for medicine, urged both of Australia’s primary political parties to commit funding to JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine in support of enhanced response to an influx of TB and other tropical diseases from Papua New Guinea (PNG). According to Wronski, thousands of political asylum seekers have been travelling illegally across the four-kilometer Torres Strait that separated PNG from Australia’s northernmost territories. AusAID estimated 14,749 new TB diagnoses in PNG annually and reported that PNG had the highest TB burden in the Pacific region.
Wronski recommended a “massive escalation” in disease surveillance in the coastal area to prevent TB from becoming established in the Torres Strait and mainland Australia. The Queensland government already has committed $42 million to infrastructure and projects of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, which will be based in Townsville and will have offices in Cairns and Thursday Island. Total cost for the institute would be $116 million. Plans called for the institute’s scientists to study the prevention and cure of TB, dengue fever, rabies, and other emerging diseases.