World Tuberculosis Day [24 March 2019]

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services commemorated World Tuberculosis Day this year on Friday 22nd March.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis that mainly affects the lungs of infected individuals but can also affect other vital organs in the body. In 2016, WHO’s estimated Global incidence and mortality rate for TB was respectively, 10.4 million and 1.3 million persons. In Fiji, the 2017 data on TB published by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services indicated that, 49 out of every 100,000 Fijians had TB and about 4 of those infected succumbed to the disease.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is committed to achieving the 2035 global End-TB program targets of reducing TB incidence and deaths by 90% and 95% respectively, and ceasing the high costs associated with the disease.

Acting Medical superintendent, Tamavua Twomey Hospital  Dr Mike Kama highlighted that TB can be easily spread if not managed properly.

“TB is usually spread when a TB infected person coughs or sneezes and releases tiny infectious droplets that remain suspended in air for several hours, and is subsequently inhaled by an uninfected individual”, he said.

“The risks of airborne transmission of TB is highest in environments that are overcrowded and poorly ventilated. People with pre-existing HIV and/or diabetes mellitus conditions are at higher risk of developing TB”.

Transmission of TB through ingestion of contaminated cow’s milk has largely been reduced by pasteurization of milk.

The symptoms of TB include coughing for over 2 weeks, fever, night sweats, weight loss and coughing out blood. TB is diagnosed by having a chest X-Ray and a sputum sample tested for the presence of the bacteria.

Dr Sam Fullman, also from the National TB Program reminds people that TB treatment is readily available at health facilities around the country.

“These diagnostic and treatment services for TB are free of charge and directly accessible at any of the major government hospitals around the country and also through the TB referral networks available at nursing stations and health centers”, Dr Fullman said.

The spread of TB can be prevented by practicing good cough etiquette, ensuring that homes are well ventilated and not overcrowded, and regularly sunning out the beddings.