On the 24th of March, the TB day will be commemorated globally, with Cameroon inclusive under the theme: World TB Day 2019 – ‘it’s time’. The day will serve as a platform to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
According to WHO, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Each day, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 54 million lives since the year 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 42%.
In prelude to the day, Art of News met with Dr Ayuk Leo, the Bamenda regional coordinator of the technical group for tuberculosis control at the regional delegation of public health for an insight on Tuberculosis.
Art of News: Good day Doctor
Dr Ayuk: Good day
Art of News: Dr what is tuberculosis?
Dr Ayuk: tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a micro-organism and is contagious as it can move from one person to another. It is also air-borne as it can be transmitted through the air when somebody who is having TB, sends into the air infectious droplet nuclei and subsequently somebody who is healthy will breathe these infectious nuclei and gets infected.
Art of News: Doctor haven identified micro-organism to be the cause of TB, what are it’s signs and symptoms?
Dr Ayuk: the major signs and symptoms of TB are cough and it last for at least two weeks. So any cough below two weeks should not be immediately considered as TB. If it stays for more than two weeks, and is associated with sweating a lot at night, night fevers, loss of weight and appetite, cough mix with blood and difficulties in breathing then the person becomes a suspect of TB. Once these signs are visible, a test is done to determine if it’s TB or not.
Art of News: what is the relationship between HIV and TB?
Dr Ayuk: tuberculosis is tightly link to HIV and vice-versa as they both worsen the situation of the other. The defense cells in your body that prevents you from developing TB is called the CD4 cell and when HIV gets into your system, it selectively kills these cells and allows the TB bacilli to develop thereby creating that link.
Art of News: what can be done by uninfected individuals to prevent this disease?
Dr Ayuk: There are natural measures that can be followed to prevent TB. First, you must live in a house where the windows and doors are large to allows the free flow of air because sun rays kills the TB bacilli or blows away the bacteria from an infected person who must have coughed. So if the place is close and you take in that air, you will be infected but if open, the air will clear the room for you. Secondly, you must be immuno-competent because this will reduce the risk of you developing TB is very small. That is, you have good CD4 count, no HIV that will kill those cells and general good health. There are ages that are vulnerable to TB. Those very young and those at old age can get infected because at those stages, their immune system is weak. Those are the preventive measures but for those who are infected, they should practice what we called “cough hygiene”. If you want to cough, you should a handkerchief or mask to cover your mouth so as to prevent the bacteria from getting into the air, thereby infecting those around you. Also when coughing, don’t use your and to cover your mouth. You can use your elbow so the bacteria stay there.
Art of News: Doctor you earlier mentioned the test for TB, what is the cost of the TB test?
Dr Ayuk: The test is done at different levels. Once a suspected case comes in, a microscopic test is done. Here a patient’s cough mucus is collected and passed under a microscope to see if there is a TB bacillus. That will cost a 1000 FRS and any subsequent test and treatment after that will be done for free once you are diagnosed with TB.
Art of News: Doctor just the word tuberculosis, kills the spirit of many because of the stigma. Tell us, is this disease curable?
Dr Ayuk: Yes it is curable and thank you so much for that question. Many people still believe that tuberculosis is incurable because of the stigma that accompanies it. TB is curable on the condition that the patient takes his/her treatment appropriately without interruption and should take their medication till the end.
Art of News: Talking about treatment, how long does it last?
Dr Ayuk: The treatment last for six months and is divided into two phases. The intensive phase and the continuation phase. The intensive phase is two months and at this time, the patient takes more drugs than at the continuation phase. Drugs are taken early in the morning and you only have to eat one hour after you have taken the drugs not before.
Art of News: Now doctor, this last question. How often should one go for a TB test?
Dr Ayuk: Well there is no particular period one should go for a test but any time you are coughing, you should go for a TB test.
Art of News: Thank you so much doctor Ayuk for talking to Art of News.
Dr Ayuk: Thank you for having me.
24th of March, marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.
It should be noted that to accelerate the TB response in countries to reach targets – Heads of State came together and made strong commitments to end TB at the first-ever UN High Level Meeting in September 2018. This year’s theme therefore puts the accent on the urgency to act on the commitments made by global leaders last year.
Maikem Emmanuela Manzie