Vital tuberculosis (TB) medication is running worryingly low across Burma, with medical officials in Rangoon saying supplies will run out by October.
Tin Mi Mi Khine, the tuberculosis officer for Rangoon, is worried about what will happen when stocks run out.
“The supply we have now will dry up after distributing it to the patients in September. In October, there will be patients but no more drugs, how are we supposed to deal with this?” said Tin Mi Mi Khine.
Stockpiles of the medication are running low in 20 countries worldwide, including Burma.
And a drug-resistant strain of the disease, which is found in over 9,000 cases each year in Burma, is posing a serious threat to the fight against TB.
Medical staff in Rangoon can only wait until the next shipment of TB medication arrives; in the meantime they are trying to prevent the disease spreading.
“We have to explain to them that there might be more supplies in November and that the current medication is no longer working,” said Tin Mi Mi Khine.
“We will teach them methods to prevent the disease from infecting other people such as [wearing masks] for infection control and to avoid staying in a crowd if they can.”
A supply of drug-resistant TB medication, provided four times a year by the Global Fund, will arrive in November.
According to the World Health Organization, out of the thousands of people diagnosed with drug resistant TB in Burma, only 1,000 have ever received treatment.
“In the past, patients would die waiting for the medication. We would reach out to them and pass on the news that the drugs had arrived but then the next day, the patient would be dead,” said Tin Mi Mi Khin.
On Tuesday, Burma received four state of the art machines that detect drug-resistant TB. These machines greatly reduce the time it takes to diagnose the disease and have the potential to save thousands of lives.
But unless patients get immediate treatment as soon as they are diagnosed, the drug-resistant strain of the disease will continue to spread.