Official visit to close door on TB

2016-03-29 06:00
Siyabulela Mamkeli (far right), Mayco member for health, joined an awareness campaign in Dontse Yahke in Hout Bay last Wednesday, going door-to-door with various community care workers to do screening tests and advise residents about general hygiene methods (such as good hand-washing practices) as well as specific measures to prevent the spread of TB.

Siyabulela Mamkeli (far right), Mayco member for health, joined an awareness campaign in Dontse Yahke in Hout Bay last Wednesday, going door-to-door with various community care workers to do screening tests and advise residents about general hygiene methods (such as good hand-washing practices) as well as specific measures to prevent the spread of TB.

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Tuberculosis (TB) remains an epidemic in many parts of the world, resulting in 1.5m deaths every year – mostly in developing countries.

In the run-up to World TB Day, held last Thursday, the City of Cape Town’s health directorate raised awareness about the importance of regular TB tests as a means of reducing the public health burden.

City officials visited Dontse Yakhe in Hout Bay to remind the residents of the importance of testing regularly.

The City urges residents to get tested for TB annually and when they have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with TB.

The health directorate has recorded a steady decline in the number of people starting TB treatment in the last five years.

Last year 23 815 patients started treatment, of which 1539 were children four years and younger.

Of these, almost half were also infected with HIV. More than a thousand multidrug-resistant (MDR) patients started treatment.

The turnaround time between diagnosis and treatment has been shortened dramatically. HIV tests have become routine for all TB patients. Dual-infected patients are started on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment if they are not already on ARVs.

Siyabulela Mamkeli, Mayco member for health, says although significant strides have been made in recent years, there remains a number of challenges, including:

. There is no culture of cough hygiene in South Africa.

. Too many cases go undiagnosed or are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

. Some patients are diagnosed, but don’t report for treatment and cannot be traced.

. Too many drug-resistant TB patients do not complete their treatment, because patients have to be booked off work until test results are negative and have to visit a clinic every day for treatment and the drugs have severe side effects.

. Poor socio-economic conditions can be directly linked to a higher number of cases of TB in certain areas in the city.

“While our caseload has dropped, these are only the cases we are aware of. Many people develop symptoms of TB but leave it unchecked or try to treat it with cough syrup or antibiotics.

“We need people to start thinking TB first and get tested, if only to eliminate it as a possibility. Let’s rather be safe than sorry because the longer TB goes undiagnosed, the more those around you are exposed and at risk of developing the disease,” says Mamkeli.

Close contact with someone who has TB increases the risk of infection.

Currently, the BCG vaccine given to babies prevents very young, susceptible children from developing complicated or severe TB disease, but it does not prevent TB. Caregivers can bring children under the age of five to clinics for a course of prophylactics if they have been exposed to a person with TB. The prophylactics can also be used by HIV-positive people in the same situation.

“Members of the public also need to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of TB, which include a cough, night sweats and weight loss. Get tested if you notice one or more of these symptoms. Knowing your status will put you in a position to take action if required,” adds Mamkeli.

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