World TB day is today
Guyana renews commitment to curb disease

Guyana Chronicle
March 23, 2003

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GUYANA has reiterated its commitment to “win the ongoing struggle against tuberculosis”, even as it continues to record increased morbidity rates of the disease. Health authorities have also expressed concern that there is an increase in tuberculosis in children.

According to a message to mark World TB Day today, the Ministry of Health said new tuberculosis patients are diagnosed every day.

“For the year 2002, the National Tuberculosis Control Programme, registered a total of 641 new patients of which 432 were diagnosed at Georgetown Chest Clinic, 166 at Linden Chest Clinic and 43 at New Amsterdam Chest Clinic. This definitely marks an increase in morbidity as compared to the previous year, 2001, when a total of 407 new cases were diagnosed. All patients receive the full complement of drugs free of cost at our chest clinics located in Georgetown Public Hospital Compound, Linden, New Amsterdam and West Demerara and for the year 2002 a total of 405 patients were declared cured.

“In Guyana, like in many other parts of the world, the emerging dual epidemic of TB/HIV is of great concern. For the year 2002 and 22 of the 641 newly diagnosed patients were HIV positive. This highlighted the need to integrate Tuberculosis in the HIV/AIDS services. Staff members of the Chest Clinic are now receiving special training in the management of HIV patients, who have contracted Tuberculosis.”

With respect to the increase in children’s cases, the Ministry said that in 2001, 35 new cases were diagnosed, compared with 42 in 2002.

“We continue with our prevention measures, with the administration of BCG vaccines for babies. In 2001, 79.5 per cent of all babies born (6009) at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation received the BCG vaccine. The following year recorded an increase with 81.3 per cent of total babies born (6161) at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation receiving the BCG vaccine,” the message said.

Noting that the tuberculosis epidemic is still out of control in many parts of the world several decades after the dreaded bacillus was discovered, the Ministry noted that the disease is curable, even for people living with HIV/AIDS.

On March 24,1882, German scientist, Dr Robert Koch from Berlin, Germany, informed the scientific community that he had discovered the tuberculosis bacillus.

But the real breakthrough occurred in the mid-1940’s when a number of potent drugs which, when used in a combination formula, can effectively cure tuberculosis in all its forms.

Despite this historic medical prowess, about one third of the world’s population is still infected with the Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, and the disease Tuberculosis is still the leading cause of death from a single infection agent in adults worldwide. It has been shown that at least 200 million people have died from this dreaded disease since 1882, the Ministry said.

Statistics emanating from the World Health Organisation indicate that someone is infected with tuberculosis every second and that up to 75 million people may have been infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis.

“Today, for the first time since the discovery of anti-tuberculosis medication in 1944, there is much hope at reversing the course of this frightening global TB epidemic. This strategy is known as DOTS (directly observed treatment short course) management. This is symbolised by the outstretched hand of the health worker who provides the essential medications to patients, and watches them swallow the medications.”

The Ministry added that this approach has already been adopted by the National Tuberculosis Programme in Guyana, and was introduced in September 2002. Four months after the initiation of the strategy locally, the National Tuberculosis Control Programme of the Ministry of Health has a total of 121 patients enrolled under DOTS.

The Ministry said that medical training continues to be an integral part of staff development to deal with “this dreaded disease.” It said that in the hinterland and riverain areas, health care workers are trained in the identification of the disease.

“Tuberculosis is a Global emergency and public health officials here in Guyana are urged to strengthen the National Tuberculosis Programme and to protect all citizens from this disease that is curable, the message said.

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