Kagera overwhelmed by rising TB infections

KAGERA Region is overwhelmed by high cases of tuberculosis with limited capacity and resources for treatment and care and the situation is made worse by ignorance among the victims who report late to health centres for treatment and care.

About 7,800 people in Kagera Region contract Tuberculosis (TB) every year, but the only 2,300 patients were treated, according to the Regional Tuberculosis and Leprosy Coordinator (RTLC), Dr Paschal Peter.

Dr Peter, who is based at Bukoba Regional Referral Hospital, calls for concerted efforts to curb the spread of the disease. Compared with other diseases caused by a single infectious agent, Tuberculosis is the second biggest killer, globally,” he said.

He says it is crucial for people to report to health facilities early for testing noting that of the 7,800 cited cases, only 2,300 patients were treated due to limited capacity and resourced. At the national level about 154,000 patients contract TB each year.

Lack of knowledge and delays in reporting to health facilities for early detection limit efforts to curb the spread of the disease. TB, as it’s commonly called -- is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs. It can also spread to other parts of the body, like the brain and spine.

Dr Peter says the number of TB patients increased from 1,732 cases detected in 2014, to 1,934 cases in 2015 and 2,121 in 2016. Figures for 2017 and 2018 were 2,158 and 2,214, while between January and April 1, this year 441 TB were detected. The prevalence of Tuberculosis in the country is 269/100,000.

This shows that TB is still a major burden in the country and this calls for renewed efforts by all to strengthen the current health delivery system and programme interventions for Tuberculosis in Tanzania.

Between January and March, this year nine patients were confirmed to have contracted Multi-Drugs Resistant (MDR) TB compared to 10 patients last year, he said adding that about 100 Accredited Drugs Dispensers (ADOs) and 20 registered traditional healers from Muleba, Missenyi, Ngara and Karagwe Councils were recently trained on TB management skills while efforts were being made to mobilise funds to conduct more sensitization seminars in controlling TB.

The region allocated one Genexpert TB testing machine to each of the district councils as more efforts were being made to control the spread of the disease as there were indications that the preventable disease was on the increase.

World Tuberculosis Day (WTD) celebrated annually on March 24 is marked to create public common awareness about efforts to combat one of the deadly diseases that is curable with the right administered drugs.

Furthermore, results have shown that TB is more prevalent in males than in females while the prevalence of HIV infection among TB suspects is 4.8 per cent and 6.5 per cent among TB patients.

There was considerable regional variation as in the previous years with 50 per cent of cases being contributed by only 6 regions - Dar- es-Salaam, Mwanza, Mbeya, Morogoro, Arusha and Tanga. Data indicated that 15 regions notified below the national average of 129 cases per 100,000 people.

The notification rate of new and relapses TB cases was 129 cases per 100,000 population which was slightly higher compared to that of 2015 that was 125 per 100,000 population. Since 1980, Tuberculosis patients have been on the rise up to 65,000 cases detected in 2013, compared to 11,000 cases reported in 1983.

In the past five years 63,000 people have been recorded by health facilities to be TB patients and each year securing treatment. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs. Tanzania is the first country in the world to successfully combine the control of TB and Leprosy into a single programme.

The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Programme (NTLP), which works to eradicate the disease as well as Leprosy, has been in the forefront in laying emphasis on early detection and treatment services to stop its spread.

Epidemiologists hint that several factors contribute to the spread of the disease in the country including HIV/AIDS scourge, which reduces the body’s immunity to become susceptible to be invaded by the bacteria. They also point failure by TB patients to report to health facilities on time for diagnosis, treatment as well as poor housing and over-crowding in stuffy places.

The Mycobacterium Tuberculosis bacterium causes TB. It is spread through the air when a person with TB (whose lungs are affected) coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs, or talks. TB is contagious, but it is not easy to catch. The chances of catching TB from someone you live or work with are much higher than from a stranger.

Most people with active TB who have received appropriate treatment for at least 2 weeks are no longer contagious.

Since antibiotics began to be used to fight TB, some strains have become resistant to drugs. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) arises when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria, with the surviving bacteria developing resistance to that antibiotic and often others at the same time.

MDR-TB is treatable and curable only with the use of very specific anti-TB drugs, which are often limited or not readily available.

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Author: MEDDY MULISA in Bukoba

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