South Africa: Tuberculosis – Taxis’ Deadly Passenger

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Millions of South Africans rely on minibus taxis daily, but South Africa’s most widely used mode of public transport could also be ferrying a deadly passenger.

About a 100 members of the AIDS lobby group the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) recently took to some of Johannesburg’s busiest taxi ranks to spread awareness about tuberculosis (TB). Dodging and weaving among the queues of passengers at the Bree, Noord and Wanders street taxi ranks, activists had one simple message: Open a window and stop TB.

TB remains the leading cause of death in South Africa and accounted for almost nine percent of all deaths reported in StatisticsSouth Africa’s latest report on causes of death in the country.

TB is spread after bacteria become airborne after those living with the bacteria cough, sneeze or even speak. With minibus passengers squeezed tightly into taxis with about 19 other people, it is not hard to see why a 2013 study found that taxis carried the greatest TB risk among public transport means.

Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the study tracked the amount of carbon dioxide – the gas exhaled by humans – on commutes made by minibus taxi, bus or train.

Researchers then used mathematical modelling to predict commuters’ TB risk by mode of transport and found that the risk was highest among taxi users. Poor ventilation in taxis meant that minibus commuters faced a five percent annual risk of contracting TB, according to the research.

Source: allAfrica (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, transportation