KAMPALA – Tuberculosis (TB), an infectious disease transmitted through the air from a person with it through coughing, laughing, singing, and talking claims at least 30 Ugandans according to the Ministry of Health.
The disease mostly affects the lungs but can also affect any part of the body and can affect people of all ages.
Ahead of World TB and Leprosy Day commemorated on 24th March, the ministry together with partners of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Uganda Network on Law and Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) hosted a media breakfast meeting on Wednesday to create awareness about the diseases.
Dr. Henry Mwebesa – Director General Health Services at the Ministry of Health noted that prior to the World TB commemoration, there will be a number of activities which include community TB and Leprosy awareness, screening, testing, prevention and treatment across the country.
He asked citizens to stop discriminating and stigmatizing TB patients noting that the disease does not spread through shaking someone’s hands, sharing food or drinks, touching bed linen or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, and or kissing.
TB burden in Uganda
According to the ministry of health, Uganda is one of the top 30 countries, in the world, with a high number of TB cases with approximately 30 people dying of the disease every day, more than half of this number being people living with HIV.
Statistics show that TB is 4 times more common among men than in women.
Dr. Stavia Turyahabwe, Assistant Commissioner – National TB and Leprosy Division at the Ministry of Health says the cost of treating TB is high especially if treatment is received from private health facilities which leads to poverty, but also poor people are more likely to suffer from TB due to malnutrition.
She says that the disease is mostly spread by those who do not know they have it or those who did not complete their treatment dose.
“A good number of Children with TB are either missed or diagnosed but not started on treatment unless their parents/guardians have the right information,” she said, adding that, “Every child at risk of developing TB should have access to appropriate TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment.”
Signs and Symptoms of TB
Cough for two or more weeks or on and off cough
Prolonged fevers for more than two weeks
Excessive (or Drenching) Night sweats
Coughing blood or blood-stained sputum
Unexplained weight loss
Poor weight gains among children
History of contact with a person who has TB
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
Treatment for TB
Experts recommend to begin TB treatment as soon as possible following diagnosis.
“TB is curable, if detected early and you adhere to treatment as prescribed by your health worker.”
The duration of treatment for uncomplicated TB is 6 months with a daily dose
TB can fail to respond to the usual treatment if you don’t test early or if you do not take the medicines correctly as prescribed by the health worker or you get exposed to someone with resistant TB
“Good news is that drug resistant TB is also Curable! Do not miss your TB treatment,” Dr. Turyahabwe added.
Prevention and control of TB
Immunize your child at birth against TB
Go for testing and treatment as soon as you have the TB signs and symptoms
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a handkerchief, any other piece of cloth or an arm/elbow
Use the mask correctly and at all times when in public or enclosed space
Put enough windows on your house to allow proper ventilation
Open windows, doors including those of vehicles such as buses and taxis
Avoid over crowded places
Stay out doors for most of the day if you have TB
If you have been found with TB disease, the health worker will start you on TB treatment.
Persons with TB disease should make sure their loved ones, people they work, study, stay or frequently interact with are also assessed and checked for TB
Children below five years old living with someone with TB will be put on preventive medicine.
Children above five years old, adolescents and adults who test negative for TB, but are living with someone with TB, will also be put on preventive medicine.
Dr. Mwebesa says that Uganda registers over 90,000 new cases every year.
“But also sometimes we don’t find all those 90,000 cases. When we are lucky we can find about 72,000 to 80,000” which remains a big threat to the society.
He called on the stakeholders to utilize this campaign to get all the people who are sick and start them on treatment.
“The burden is not only them the 20,000 (unfound patients) but also the spread they cause. So they will find next year, the burden is even bigger than 90,000,” he added.
Dr. Mwebesa says that if patients adhere to the treatment guidelines recover completely.
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