Tuberculosis still proliferating despite government’s effort to control the disease
Tuberculosis is still among the top killer diseases in the world whereby, 8.8 million people worldwide are infected with tuberculosis.
According to a report by the World Health Organization, in 2016, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.7 million died from the disease (including 0.4 million among people with HIV). Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
Tuberculosis (TB), as it is commonly called is a contagious infection, caused by a group of bacteria called mycobacterium complex that infects mainly, the lungs but can affect any other part of the body apart from skin, teeth and hair.
Tuberculosis remains the major cause of morbidity and mortality in Kenya. It affects all age groups, but has its greatest toll in the most productive age group of 15 to 44 years.
According to the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Programme 2017 report in Kenya, (NTLD-P) the major factor responsible for the large TB disease burden includes the concurrent HIV epidemic.
Other factors that have contributed to this large TB disease burden, include poverty and social deprivation that has led to a mushrooming of peri-urban slums, congestion in prisons and limited access to general health care services.
It also states that there are more TB cases in Kenya than previously estimated, with a prevalence of 558 per 100,000 per people.
Dr. Derrick Kibet of Homa Bay County Teaching and Referral Hospital, says that there’s been an increase in reported cases of TB from 2016, December 2017, recording the highest.
She added that the increase in TB is due to poor living conditions and the rise in HIV/AIDS pandemic.
“Lifestyle contributes to increase of Tuberculosis. For example, Smoking and excessive drinking is believed to contribute in acquiring TB as it reduces the body’s immunity strength in fighting the infection. Large social gatherings in poorly ventilated rooms a good example, watching football in a congested room,” he added.
There are different types of tuberculosis, including Pulmonary TB which affects the lung; the patient coughs for three weeks or longer.
Extra-pulmonary TB can affect any part of the body, other than the lungs for example kidney, spine, brain or lymph nodes.
MDR-Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, a type of TB caused by a bacteria which is resistant to one or more of the most important medicine.
It is common in people who do not take their medicine regularly, do not take all of their TB medicine as told by the doctor.
MDR can be prevented by quickly diagnosing cases, following treatment guidelines, monitoring patient’s response to treatment and making sure
therapy is completed.
In active TB infection, the germs multiply faster and can make one sick. The patient can easily spread the disease to others; 99% of adult cases of active TB are from the reactivation of a latent TB infection.
In Latent TB infection, the TB bacteria are alive but inactive in the body. You have the germs in your body, but your immune system stops them from spreading.
People with latent TB have no symptoms, don’t feel sick, can’t spread it to others and usually have a negative skin test reaction. They may develop TB if their immunity
weakens, for example in HIV patients.
Tuberculosis is spread from person to person through the air. When a person with lung TB coughs, sneezes or spits, they propel the TB germs
into the air.
About one-quarter of the world population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not yet ill with the disease and cannot transmit it.
People infected with TB bacteria have a 5-15% lifetime risk of falling ill with TB. However, persons with compromised immune systems, such as
people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.
“You’ll need to get a skin or blood test to find out if you are infected. But there are usually signs if you have active TB disease.
They include; a cough that lasts more than three weeks, chest pain,” says Dr Kibet.
Coughing up blood, feeling tired all the time, night sweats, chills, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss.
According to Dr. Kibet, a healthy immune system fights the TB bacteria, but if you got HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, severe kidney diseases, head and neck cancers, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, low body weight and malnutrition and medication for organ transplants, you might not be able to fend off active disease.
“Babies and young children are also at a greater risk, because their immune systems aren’t fully formed,” says Dr. Kibet.
Meet David Okoth, a 56year old man who has been battling tuberculosis for the past two months. He said that it all started with dry coughs
which prolonged for some time followed by chest pains. He decided to go to for a medical checkup where he was diagnosed with Tb.
Okoth said that his biggest challenge is that the treatment periodgoes for six months and the upkeep of daily medication for that
duration is so hectic even though the treatment is free.
According to a report from the Ministry of Health website, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provided technical and scientific support to the government of Kenya to curb the disease.
People living with HIV/AIDs are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop active TB disease, than people without HIV.
According to International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, HIV and TB are so closely connected that their relationship is often described as co-epidemic. They form lethal combination, each speeding the others progress. In 2016, about 0.4 million people died of HIV-associated TB.
It is very important to be screened for TB if you are found to be HIV positive. You may be given treatment to protect you from contracting TB and it is also possible to treat and cure TB even if you are HIV positive.
Dr. Kibet also said that overall health education, immunization and screening can help in preventing tuberculosis cases. TB is curable.
By Sharon Onyango and Davis Langat