Queensland Health says it will conduct tests for tuberculosis (TB) on a number of islands in the Torres Strait, after claims the disease has reached epidemic proportions in the region.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Queensland Health, and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council are meeting today to address council concerns that cases of TB are going unnoticed.
The council is refusing to grant entry permits to their neighbours, after a Torres Strait elder died from a multi-drug-resistant form of TB.
The Torres Strait Hospital and Health Service chief executive, Simone Kolaric, says she is confident there is no outbreak in the region but tests will be conducted on Saibai and Boigu islands in the coming weeks to be sure.
"We will actively test everyone we can," she said.
"So any resident, not necessarily just Australian citizens, but anyone who happens to be there at the time and who's living there.
"What that testing means is we look at any symptoms they might have, we talk to them about what their arrangements are, are they living in overcrowded housing? Are they feeling a particular way?"
She says there have only been two confirmed cases of TB locally in the past year.
"Up to July 1 we had one case, so one case does not an epidemic make - there's not actually an epidemic," she said.
"While there is still the presence of tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea, I'm very comfortable we're handling it in a way that is protecting people.
"But in saying that I acknowledge the nervousness that people have particularly in the outer islands where they're a long way from a hospital."