A tuberculosis cluster has been identified on Yam Island in the Torres Strait by Queensland Health but locals were not informed.
Local Councillor Getano Lui said he was horrified the Yam Island community of about 360 people had not been told about the discovery.
“That’s how bad the communication is with the Health Department,” he said.
“We’re totally in the dark and really certainly for myself, I really don’t know how to react to it.”
Tropical Public Health Services in Cairns said nine people had been affected on the island but the cluster was being contained.
A multi-drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis claimed the lives of two women in Cairns Hospital this year.
Federal Member for Leichardt, Warren Entsch, who is in Torres Strait, said it was not good enough that locals were unaware of the cluster.
“How in the hell can you deal with it when the people that are front line aren’t allowed to speak about it and the senior bureaucrats that speak on their behalf are not telling the truth?” he said.
Patients respond to medical treatment
Dr Richard Gair, from Tropical Health Services, said the Yam Island cases were a different strain of the disease to those which killed the women, and those diagnosed were responding to treatment.
The cluster was linked to three extended family members dating back several years. Dr Gair said no similar cluster had been identified on nearby Saibai Island.
Dr Gair said lab tests have confirmed TB in only three of the Yam Island-related cases, but none of those cases proved to be the multi-drug resistant strain of the disease.
He said there was no evidence of a link with TB strains identified in Papua New Guinea.
“Public health authorities currently also are investigating links between a Torres Strait islander woman recently deceased in Cairns Hospital and close contacts of that patient who are resident in Cairns and the Torres Strait,” Dr Gair said.
An outbreak control group had been formed to ensure a coordinated response to the tuberculosis cluster on Yam Island.
A Queensland Health spokesman said there were 119 notifications of TB in Queensland for the year to September 30, compared with 128 for the same period in 2013 and 132 for the same period in 2012.
He said 80 per cent of TB notifications in Queensland involved people born overseas in countries where TB is prevalent, or people who had lived in such countries for a significant period.