As we approach World TB Day, here’s what you need to know

The 5th National South African TB Conference in Durban from 12 to 15 June 2018 will be chaired by Dr Margot Uys. The conference will be hosted by the Foundation for Professional Development.

On 24 March 2018 is World TB Day. Here’s what to know about the disease.

1.) TB is a fully treatable disease yet continues to be the top cause of deaths in South Africa.

2.) Globally, South Africa ranks amongst the top ten TB burden countries – after India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria and Pakistan.

3.) South Africa reported a total of 244 053 cases in 2016, but the World Heath Organisation Global TB Report 2017 estimates there are 438 000 cases. Taking these estimates into account, there should out there be a string of undiagnosed TB patients, not being identified, incorrectly diagnosed as a pneumonia, flu, etc., not being investigated despite tell-tale symptoms or stigma-related factors influencing both health care worker as well as patient behaviour, or patients not accessing health care services because of time constraints and/or poor services, transport problems or other factors.

4.) TB has been named by some as one of the scarlet pimpernel diseases, together with malaria, because of it being here, there, everywhere and its difficulty in diagnosis. Health workers need tohave a high index of suspicion and tenacity to point them in the direction of TB as sometimes symptoms can be misleading – can be vague and general for a long time, but with a history of cough and weight loss, the diagnosis becomes easier.

5.) Testing sputum for TB is not the end of the journey. Once treatment is started, it is very important to complete the six-month course of daily pill taking to prevent relapseand drug resistance from developing.

6.) World TB Day is celebrated yearly on the 24th March as it was the day that the scientist, Dr RobertKoch, who diagnosed the tuberculosis bacillus, presented his findings to the Berlin PhysiologicalSociety on 24 March 1882 up to today, it is often referred to as the Koch-bacillus and is there to raise awareness and create space and eliminate stigma for people with TB. Communities still find themselves being unfairly discriminated against as TB was historically linked to poor social circumstances, poverty, overcrowding and emotional/ physical stress.

7.) After the discovery of powerful antimicrobials in the early fifties and sixties, it seemed that it was the end of TB but until the arrival of HIV which changed the whole face of TB – together they became the terrible twins, causing havoc in people who have a compromised immune system. It was only after the introduction of Anti-retroviraltreatment that TB numbers started to decline again.

8.) The theme for this years World TB Day is: “Wanted: Leaders For a TB-free World. You Can Make History. End TB”.

9.) The National TB Control Programme will now be focussing on identifying the missing TB cases. In addition, and for the first time in history, assistingthe international drive to find the missing cases and end TB. Normally, the challenge is making sure that all presumptive TB patients who have symptoms are diagnosed and put on treatment at the first contact session with the health care provider. Apart from missing and not diagnosing TB patients, the other dilemma is that private general practitioners, as a rule, do not treat TB. There is little, if any communication and collaboration, between the private sector and the public sector. Often male patients, as breadwinners, cannot access health services at public clinics, due to ungainly long queues and poor services. They show up at private practitioners for their health related problems and are then referred back to public clinics for further management of TB, should the doctor suspect that the patient might have TB. This yearthe National TB Control programme will focus on the seventeen identified TB priority districts, of the total of 52 South African districts and will pinpoint geographic hotspots, focus on Health Services in general as well as having an additional effort on contact tracing of known TB cases at regular intervals.

(edited by 013NEWS Team)

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