Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Treatment, not deportation, to curb TB cases

The threat of deportation for tuberculosis patients seems to be doing more harm than good. There is a more effective approach.

Tuberculosis is gaining ground in the UAE, and one aspect of immigration policy may be part of the problem. Fortunately, there is an easy solution.

Tuberculosis is not common in the UAE but the number of reported cases reached 1,350 last year in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, up from barely 450 in 2009.

To keep this potentially fatal bacterial infection from spreading in the country, the Ministry of Health said last year that any expatriate diagnosed with pulmonary TB would be deported. (Those diagnosed with less virulent forms of the disease can be treated here.)

The policy seemed to many to be appropriate, but then the law of unintended consequences took hold: experts now realise that expatriates, whether here legally or illegally, may choose to shun proper medical treatment for fear of being sent home. Some doctors in Dubai warned of this last year, and The National reported yesterday that there is a growing consensus on the issue.

To the extent that the policy discourages expatriates from seeking treatment, it has just the opposite of the desired effect, leaving people to spread a highly contagious disease, potentially, each time they cough or sneeze. And the reported cases may be only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Clearly the top priority here must be to control the spread of the disease. Doing that requires early diagnosis, meticulous delivery of the six-month course of treatment and a comprehensive registry of all cases. On all these counts, deportation is counterproductive.

What would be productive is a two-part strategy beginning before anyone boards an aircraft to the UAE.

In May the Ministry of Health began requiring preliminary medical clearance in countries of origin for migrants from South Asian and some other countries, where TB incidence is high. It is too early to say how this is succeeding - much depends on fraud prevention - but the requirement seems to be a sound first step.

To really contain TB, however, the follow-up in this country is vital too: anyone who has TB symptoms should have access to diagnosis, and treatment if needed, without the consequences being deportation.

Only then can the public participate as it needs to in controlling this public health menace.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 An tenant in the Al Barsha area of Dubai has been sent a non-renewable contract by the landlord. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Dubai landlord refuses to pay back Rera fees after losing rent case

Keren Bobker helps a tenant who wants to know how to reclaim his RERA case fees and who has also been sent a contract with a “one-year nonrenewable” note.

 A customer looks at a large mock-up of videogame console Game Boy.  Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP Photo

Nintendo’s Game Boy at 25: hand-held legacy lives on

Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks its 25th anniversary Monday with the portable device’s legacy living on in cutting-edge smartphone games and among legions of nostalgic fans.

 Lewis Hamilton got off to an ideal start in the Mercedes at the Chinese Grand Prix. Cliva Mason / Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton completes dominant victory at Chinese Grand Prix

It is a Mercedes 1-2 as Nico Rosberg finishes in second place with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso getting a podium place.

 A projectionist takes a break in the projection room at Ariana Cinema in Kabul, Afghanistan. Going to the movies, once banned under the Taliban, has become a popular form of entertainment in Kabul, but women and children rarely take part. All photos by Photo by Jonathan Saruk / Reportage by Getty Images

Afghan cinema: Forbidden Reel

The lights go down and the projector whirls into action as Sher Mohammed, 35, begins his routine, bouncing back and forth between two projectors, winding reels, and adjusting the carbon arc lamps inside the projectors.

 The mother removes the noose with the help of her husband from around the neck of Balal.

In pictures: Mother forgives her son’s killer as he awaited his execution

An Iranian mother spared the life of her son’s convicted murderer with an emotional slap in the face as he awaited execution with the noose around his neck.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National