WC Health TB detection in the Garden Route 23-30 March 2012

Theuns Botha

Saturday, 24 March 2012 is International Tuberculosis (TB) day. On this day people all over the world are reminded of the importance of seeking treatment and preventing infection of TB. It is also a day to commemorate the lives and stories of people that are affected by TB and also those who receive treatment for it.  

This annual event marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch detected the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. This was a first step towards diagnosing and curing tuberculosis.

Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says:  “Although TB numbers in the Western Cape have been decreasing over the past 4 years, this unfortunately is not necessarily an indication that the epidemic is under control or even stabilizing. The high percentage of patients testing highly positive on diagnosis is an indication of undiagnosed, untreated cases in the community. This is for this reason that the Western Cape Government Health will on World TB Day, 24 March, start a case detection campaign, to be continued for the next 12 months. The situation will be evaluated in 2013 and strategies re-assessed. 

In this Province we are doing excellent work in treating the cases we do diagnose. Western Cape cure rate is the highest in the country and patients who successfully complete the full course of treatment is at the WHO target of 85%.”

“Zero infections in my life” is the theme for 2012. People are hereby reminded to be proactive about their health and to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Numerous activities will be held in the differentEdensub-districts for World TB Day.

Knysna event:

23 March 2012 opposite Checkers Mall in town.

Sedgefield event:

23 March 2012 in the Community Hall in Smutsville.

Bitou events:

26 March 2012 –  New Horizons, Pinetrees, Bossiesgif and Qolweni

27 March 2012 – Kranshoek

28 March 2012 – Crags

29 March 2012 – Wittedrift

30 March 2012 – Kwanokuthula

For more information kindly contact your nearest clinic.

TB is a disease that is caused by a germ that attacks and damages the lungs, and it can be easily passed to others through coughing and sneezing. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or spits saliva onto the ground the germs are spread into the surrounding air and remain for a long time. If you inhale the air you can breathe in the germs and get infected. Symptoms include persistent cough for more than two weeks, unexplained weight loss, drenching night sweats andgeneralfeeling of illness or fever for more than two weeks.

Testing is done, for free at your nearest clinic, by taking two sputum samples and the results are normally available after two to three days. If you test positive for TB you will be started on TB medication, and the treatment is taken for six to eight months. A nurse at the clinic will tell you about the disease, how it is treated, the importance of adherence support that can be provided while on treatment, the diet to follow, the importance of screening your immediate family members as well as things to avoid when you are on treatment.

  • It is important to remember that anyone can get TB. TB is not a disease for the poor only.
  • The following are things you can do to protect yourself and others from getting TB.
  • Take your TB treatment as prescribed by your health worker.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Open windows and let sunlight come through your house.
  • Exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Eat enough healthy food.
  • Stop smoking and avoid alcohol intake.

TB is curable even if you are HIV positive. You will be assessed for Anti-Retroviral Treatment and started if you qualify. You will also be given treatment to prevent opportunistic infections.

Patients should never use traditional medicine together with TB medicine because this may cause other side effects or make the TB treatment not work properly. It is important to take your TB medication every day for six months to be cured. You should not stop taking medication you received from the clinic, but you should stop the traditional medicine while taking TB treatment. If you don’t take your medication correctly the TB germ will develop resistance to treatment. You may develop MDR or XDR TB.

MDR TB stands for “Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis”, which is a specific form of drug resistant TB resistant to at least two of the most powerful first line anti-TB drugs. It is caused by the lack of compliance to treatment and incorrect use of tablets used to treat TB. The TB germ protects itself against TB drugs, which makes it difficult to kill the germ and different drugs need to be used. MDR TB is difficult to treat and may take 24 months to cure.

XDR TB, also called “Extensive Drug Resistant TB”, is where the germ is resistant to drugs used to treat TB and some of the drugs used to treat Multi Drug Resistant TB.

XDR and MDR TB are curable.  There are drugs that can be used to treat MDR and XDR TB provided you complete treatment under supervision. These drugs should be taken for 24 months. If you have MDR or XDR TB you will have to receive daily injections for six months or longer. You may have to be admitted to hospital for many months. MDR and XDR TB diagnosis can only be confirmed by taking sputum samples to the laboratory and the results are usually available after three weeks. The body reacts to germs by producing the cells to fight off and destroy the germs. In some people the body’s cells fail to kill the germs, which therefore continue to multiply and spread to other parts of the body.

If you are infected with TB and have been in contact with your children or family you should take your children, if they are under 5 years of age, to the clinic to be screened by the TB nurse. Adults who have symptoms of TB should also go to the clinic to be tested for TB. TB is curable if you take your medication correctly for the full duration. If you feel better after taking medication continue until the nurse tells you to stop. TB is dangerous if you don’t comply with medication and it can lead to even more serious complications like MDR and XDR and even death.

Useful Tips if You Have TB or Know of Someone Who Has This Disease.  Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette can prevent the spread of TB. If you have to sneeze, cough or spit, you MUST:

  • Turn your head away from people when you cough, sneeze or spit.
  • Try to sneeze, cough or spit into a tissue or toilet paper. Throw the used tissue or toilet paper into a bin.
  • If you do not have a tissue or toilet paper on hand, sneeze and cough into your upper arm.
  • Use a tissue or toilet paper if you need to blow your nose and throw the used tissue or toilet paper into a bin.
  • If you have a cough, cold or flu, cover your mouth and nose by wearing a mask or scarf when you are in enclosed or crowded spaces, for example when visiting your clinic, travelling in public transport, or in your home.
  • Continuously wash your hands so that you do not transmit germs.
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