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What do we know about communicable diseases among Indigenous people?

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Communicable diseases are diseases that are passed from person to person either by direct contact with an infected person or indirectly, such as through contaminated (dirty/unclean) food or water. Another example of indirect transmission is when the disease is spread through the air, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes and another person breathes in the air that contains the germs. Communicable diseases can be caused by:

Improvements to personal and environmental cleanliness, and the introduction of new immunisations (vaccines), have greatly reduced the number of people who catch some communicable diseases [2].

If a person develops certain communicable diseases (like tuberculosis), the disease must be 'notified'; this means that the information is collected by health authorities. Data from state and territory collections are collected and published by the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS), but Indigenous status is often not reported for large proportions of notifications.

Recent information about communicable diseases includes:

Tuberculosis: a lung infection caused by a bacterium that can trigger a range of symptoms, such as coughing, weight loss, and fever [3].

Hepatitis: an inflammation of the liver caused by viral infections, alcohol or other drugs, toxins, or an attack by the body's immune system on itself [10]. The most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, and C.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib): a bacterium that can cause a range of illnesses, such as meningitis, septicaemia, and pneumonia [14][15][16][17].

Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD): caused by a bacterium and can lead to several major health conditions, such as pneumonia and meningitis [15].

Meningococcal disease: caused by a bacterium and can lead to meningitis, meningococcaemia without meningitis, and septic arthritis [15].

Sexually transmissible infections: caused by bacteria and viruses and can lead, if left untreated, to a range of health conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease in women [18].

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): an infection that destroys cells in the body's immune system [20].

References

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2004) Australia's health 2004: the ninth biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014) Australia’s health 2014: the 14th biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  3. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (2009) Tuberculosis (TB): detailed explanation of TB. Retrieved 6 March 2009 from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/tuberculosis/Understanding/WhatIsTB/Pages/detailed.aspx
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) Experimental estimates and projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: Projected population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Australia, states and territories, 2006-2021 series [data cube]. Retrieved 8 September 2009 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/log?openagent&32380ds002_2006.srd&3238.0&Data%20Cubes&E79A5308D989173FCA25762A001CE1C3&0&1991%20to%202021&08.09.2009&Latest
  5. Roche PW, Krause V, Konstantinos A, Bastian I, Antic R, Brown L, Christensen A, Gebbie S, Hurwitz M, Misrachi A, Waring J (2008) Tuberculosis notifications in Australia, 2006. Communicable Diseases Intelligence; 32(1): 1-11
  6. Barry C, Konstantinos A, National Tuberculosis Advisory Committee (2009) Tuberculosis notifications in Australia, 2007. Communicable Diseases Intelligence; 33(3): 1-12
  7. Barry C, Waring J, Stapledon R, Konstantinos A (2012) Tuberculosis notifications in Australia, 2008 and 2009. Communicable Diseases Intelligence; 36(1): 82-94
  8. Bareja C, Waring J, Stapledon R, National Tuberculosis Advisory Committee (2014) Tuberculosis notifications in Australia 2010. Communicable Diseases Intelligence; 38(1): E36-E48
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008) Australian Demographic Statistics: June quarter 2008. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  10. Hepatitis Australia (2010) About hepatitis. Retrieved 18 November 2011 from http://www.hepatitisaustralia.com/about-hepatitis
  11. The Kirby Institute (2012) HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: annual surveillance report 2012. Sydney: University of New South Wales
  12. The Kirby Institute (2013) HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: annual surveillance report 2013. Sydney: University of New South Wales
  13. The Kirby Institute (2014) HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia annual surveillance report 2014. Sydney: University of New South Wales
  14. The Australian immunisation handbook: 10th edition 2013 (updated January 2014) (2014) Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
  15. Naidu L, Chiu C, Habig A, Lowbridge C, Jayasinghe S, Wang H, McIntyre P, Menzies R (2013) Vaccine preventable diseases and vaccination coverage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Australia 2006–2010. Communicable Diseases Intelligence; 37(December 2013 supplement): S1-S92
  16. Wang H, Deeks S, Glasswell A, McIntyre P (2008) Trends in invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b disease in Australia, 1995-2005. Communicable Diseases Intelligence; 32(3): 316-325
  17. Horby P, Gilmour R, Wang H, McIntyre P (2003) Progress towards eliminating Hib in Australia: an evaluation of Haemophilus influenzae type b prevention in Australia, 1 July 1993 to 30 June 2000. Communicable Diseases Intelligence; 27(3): 324-341
  18. Family Planning Association of WA (2010) Sexually transmissible infections (STI) and blood-borne viruses (BBV): a guide for health professionals, educators, and general practitioners. Northbridge, WA: Family Planning Association of WA
  19. The Kirby Institute (2014) Bloodborne viral and sexually transmitted infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: surveillance and evaluation report 2014. Sydney: University of New South Wales
  20. HIV & AIDS (2012) Western Australia Communicable Disease Control
 
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