During the first quarter of this year, 340 new cases of tuberculosis [TB] were recorded. The Ministry of Public Health has not yet released information of any additional cases but the impact of this disease is certainly nothing to take lightly.
This is in light of the fact that TB is a disease caused by the bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs but they can also damage other parts of the body.
TB spreads through the air when a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes or talks.
While in 2015, there were 510 new cases, the number dipped slightly in 2016 to 489.
In order to reduce the prevalence of TB, the local health sector has in place a diligent surveillance system.
According to Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, collaborations have led to a number of accomplishments including measures including a system to have new TB cases notified to the National Health Authority.
She said that moves were made to procure digital radiologic equipment for patients diagnosed with TB and its complications and procure a custom made ambulance to transport cases of TB as an infection control strategy.
The health sector also succeeded in launching Genxpert as the Standard for early diagnosis of TB in the ‘laboratory-early diagnosis equal early treatment outcome and cure rates’, and reduce multi-drug resistant TB [MDR TB].
MDR TB is a form of TB infection caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment with at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB medications. The two main first-line drugs are isoniazid and rifampicin.
In addition to paying keen attention to patients who have defaulted in taking their medication, the health sector has also been working to take steps to launch the functioning of a Step-Down Care Facility in Region Three.
Currently, Minister Lawrence said, that TB treatment guidelines have been updated to align with WHO recommendations. And the efforts that have been engaged in the fight against TB, she said, have seen Guyana being lauded by the Green Light Committee (GLC) of WHO working group.
And the laudable fight will continue into the new year. According to Minister Lawrence, the projections of her Ministry will include improved diagnostics with Genexpert as the gold standard for TB Diagnosis.
This move, she said, will serve to ensure improved diagnosis and by extension accurate treatment and the reduced MDR TB.
In addition to decentralising the TB diagnostic capabilities, Minister Lawrence said that approval has been granted for the procurement of digital x-ray machines for the National Tuberculosis Programme.
According to WHO, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. WHO has revealed too that in 2016, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB and 1.7 million died from the disease. Close to half of the infected who passed away were people living with HIV.
In fact, according to WHO, TB is a leading killer of HIV-positive people with 40 percent of those infected in 2016 dying due to the disease.
WHO estimates that there were 600,000 new cases with resistant to rifampicin – the most effective first-line drug of which 490,000 had MDR-TB. Globally, TB incidence is falling at about two percent per year, but according to WHO, this needs to accelerate to a four to five percent annual decline to reach the 2020 milestone of the End TB strategy.
It has been ascertained by WHO that about one-quarter of the world’s population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not yet ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.
People infected with TB bacteria have a five–15 percent lifetime risk of falling ill with TB. However, persons with compromised immune systems including those with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.
According to WHO, when a person develops active TB disease, the symptoms, such as cough, fever, night sweats, or weight loss, may be mild for many months.
This can lead to delays in seeking care, and results in transmission of the bacteria to others. People with active TB can infect 10–15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. Without proper treatment, 45 percent of HIV-negative people with TB on average and nearly all HIV-positive people with TB will die.
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