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SA health concerned over tuberculosis outbreak

A spate of tuberculosis cases on South Australia's Indigenous lands has raised concerns among health authorities.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier and the director of SA's TB service Simone Barry travelled to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands this week after 10 cases of the disease were confirmed.

They said Tuberculosis required prompt management including contact tracing and active case finding to treat, contain and eliminate the disease.

SA's Aboriginal Public Health team will lead engagement with impacted communities including those at Pukatja, Amata and Pipalyatjara.

"Tuberculosis is not commonly seen in Australia but is treatable and preventable. It will need a sustained response over a prolonged period," Professor Spurrier said.

She said while the current outbreak was relatively small it was important all people in the region had the information they needed to prevent the cluster from growing.

Details on the outbreak came on Friday as SA's Deputy State Coroner Ian White also reported on the deaths of a young girl and a woman, both the result of tuberculosis infections.

Monineath Chum, 9, died in hospital in February 2017 after being ill for several months, while 29-year-old Rehema Shariff Kangethe was found dead in her bed at home in 2018.

Mr White found a treating GP had failed to properly monitor the nine year old's weight in the period leading up to her death despite expressing concerns over her appearance during a consultation in August 2016.

The coroner said the doctor's care of the girl, who had previously visited Cambodia with her father, "was well below being sufficient" and had she been properly monitored the chances of an earlier diagnosis of TB would have been greatly increased.

In the case of Ms Kangethe, Mr White said she had come to Australia in 2016 from Kenya to study for a master's degree in social work.

In the months before her death, she was also treated for a variety of symptoms including joint pain, low iron levels and respiratory issues.

As her health issues continued, a GP ordered a chest x-ray but Ms Kangethe never returned before her death.

Mr White said the doctor deeply regretted not following up directly with the woman.

The coroner noted that Kenya and Cambodia accounted for about 87 per cent of the world's TB infections in 2019.