Via New Vision: WHY is TB on the increase? Excerpt:
The cough is on; the bad cough. There is an increase in the number of Tuberculosis cases in Uganda. Statistics from the health ministry show that about 50,000 TB cases are reported annually, up from 37,000 in 2001.
Globally about 9 million people are diagnosed with TB every year and around 5,000 die every day. According to the 2012 Global Report by the World Health Organization, Uganda is ranked 18 among the 22 high burden countries of the TB disease.
Of major concern to TB control is the resistance to first-line anti-tuberculosis drugs, according to health minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.
Rugunda noted that although TB is curable, more people are dying more than ever. before.
Rugunda attributed the increased cases of Multi-Resistant Tuberculosis to inadequate treatment, treatment interruptions caused by the patients, and failure to ensure availability of medicines to the TB patients.
Some patients cannot afford the cost of treatment. According to Rugunda, it requires about eight million Uganda Shillings [US$3,244] to treat one patient in duration of about two years.
Dr. Penelope Miremba, a medical officer at the tuberculosis unit at Mulago hospital decried that many patients were going into a relapse, for defaulting on treatment. Miremba said many patients do not complete their TB medication and, therefore, risk having a relapse or suffering from a drug-resistant strain of the disease.
“Usually, the patient is required to start the dose afresh, when they go into a relapse,” said in a recent interview with New Vision.
Miremba explained that when patients miss their dose, the bacteria are not completely eradicated, so they become resistant to the disease, posing a great challenge. Patients have to be put on second line treatment, which even takes much longer.
Tuberculosis treatment is often a success, but it is a long process that usually takes about six to nine months. According to a source at Mulago, the multi-drug resistant infections need up to two years to treat and are much more expensive.
Defaulting on treatment usually happens after two weeks of taking the medicine because this is when the effects and symptoms begin to disappear.
“Patients often think that they have cured and, therefore, stop taking their medicine,” explained Miremba. Usually, after a couple of weeks of taking the medicine, most people are no longer capable of transmitting infection and they begin to feel better. But that does not mean all the bacteria are killed. One has to take the full dose.