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Prison overcrowding blamed for high TB infection rate

The Western Cape Health Department has identified prison populations as the highest risk of contraction.

FILE: Officials say gross overcrowding of nearly 200 percent at Pollsmoor Prison provides optimum conditions for the spread of TB. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Provincial health officials on Monday said overcrowding in prisons was the main reason for the rapid Tuberculosis (TB) infection rate.

Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo launched X-ray services at Pollsmoor Prison to help diagnose cases of TB in correctional centres.

In South Africa 450,000 people get diagnosed with the disease every year.

MEC Mbombo said the department had identified prison populations as the highest risk of contraction.

Officials said gross overcrowding of nearly 200 percent at Pollsmoor Prison provided optimum conditions for the spread of TB.

But, they believe the roll out of new detection technologies such the digital X-ray machine "GeneXpert" would help combat the epidemic.

Next, the health department will focus on miners as part of its prevention campaign.

Meanwhile, TB remains the leading cause of death in South Africa followed by influenza and pneumonia.

In December, Statistician-General Pali Lehohla released the country's latest mortality and causes of death report.

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said 458,933 deaths were recorded in 2013 and TB remained at the top of the list.

Stats SA also said understanding why people died was important because it helped the country understand its health status and identify priority areas it needed to focus on.

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