DURBAN-- The mining sector has been identified as one of the Tubercolosis (TB) hot spots in this country by some speakers at the 5th South African TB conference being held this week in Durban. Other hot spots include urban informal settlements and prisons.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant said Wednesday that the Mine Health and Safety Council has worked out a system of dust reduction in mines.

We understand that in the past, TB was not necessarily caused by over-crowding. The dust levels in the mining industry have been very high and silica dust and other dust and coal or any dust is a cause of TB. In fact, the TB incidents in the mines and the prisons are the highest," he added.

So we have systematically, through the Mine Health and Safety Council worked a system of dust reduction in the mining industry and the incidences of TB have gone very low. Having said that, the mining companies are obliged by law to test the workers. In fact HIV/AIDS and TB are twin diseases in the mines.

Professor Keertan Dheda of the University of Cape Town said health care workers needed to look for undiagnosed TB patients. He had presented a paper on closing the diagnostic gap at the conference. The theme for this year's TB conference is Step Up: Let's Embrace All to End TB.

South Africa has set a target of finding at least 160,000 undiagnosed patients every year. Day two of the conference on Wednesday focused largely on finding the estimated 150,000 undiagnosed TB patients in South Africa who have the potential to spread the diseases in their communities.


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