- Lusaka - One hundred and seventeen years
ago, Dr Robert Koch, discovered the virus that causes Tuberculosis.
- This brightened hopes for a TB cure.
But today, the disease is killing millions of people every year. This year,
between 2-3 million people will die due to TB.
- According to WHO, this figure will record
the highest number of deaths from Tuberculosis (TB) in history. Experts
further say that this will result in hundreds of thousands of children,
throughout the world, being orphaned .
- By 1996, Zambia had more than 40,000
people infected with the TB bacilli. The 1998 WHO statistics further revealed
that the country was leading in TB cases in southern Africa.
- Due to the country's rising numbers of
TB patients and those likely to be infected, Health Minister, Professor
Nkandu Luo, in her speech read on this year's World TB day, said government
had declared TB a national emmergency: needing all the attention it can
amass both from the general public and the government Experts assert that
TB's infection rate is so high that an infected person could infect 10-15
people in a year. This is certainly to force poor governments, Zambia included,
to outstretch their already limited resources with a view to bring the
disease under control. TB/ Leprosy national coordinator, Moffat Malukutu
says the problem of TB is no longer a hospital or clinic problem, but "
a problem for everyone." According to Malukutu, the fight against
the tuberculosis, should not be left to the government alone, but that
the local communities should complement governments efforts by working
together with their healthy centres, to ensure the rapid spread of the
disease is forestalled.
- One effective way, which has been identified
to treat the disease is called DOTS - Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course.
This WHO initiative combines several elements namely Political commitment,
Case detection through smear microscopy, directly observed short-course
treatment regular drug supply and monitoring systems.
- However logistic problems have affected
the smooth running of DOTS around the world such as irregular supply of
TB drugs. TB patients around Zambia, have had to make do with limited supply
of the required drugs, for the eight-month-long TB treatment, due to lack
of proper communication between health centres and the Central Board of
Health. However, Dr Webby Mwape, executive Director of the Community Based
Tuberculosis Organisation (CBTO), has said in the past that the tendency
to give one drug to TB patients gives rise to the dreaded Multi-drug resistance-TB,
a complex type of TBresistant to medication.
- This increases fatalities from TB. Mr.
Malukutu says district health management teams need to ensure that the
Central Board Of Health (CBOH) is quickly notified about the lack of drugs
to avoid recurrence of the disease. The other problem hounding DOTS efforts,
is the over whelming number of TB patients compared to the few healthy
workers available to ensure patients swallow their medicine.
- Most patients have a tendency of stopping
taking the curative drugs once they start feeling much better, or the unpleasant
side-effects begin to afflict them. This increases chances of one developing
the fatal MDR-TB.
- This, therefore, increases the need for
close monitoring of patients by a relative, a friend or a health worker."
We should not leave monitoring of patients, to the out-numbered health
workers only, each of us has a role to play to combat the disease, relatives
and friends should ensure that patients systematically take their medicines
despite the side effects of the drugs," Dr Alwyn Mwiinga said. However,
strict adherence to the treatment of the disease without an equal attention
to preventative efforts will yield but little.
- The 1998 WHO fact sheet on TB says: "TB
is indeed a challenging disease needing more research. . ...our immediate
problem (should) is to control it in our communities and know the best
ways of preventing it" It is therefore, a fallacy to claim that since
the air we breathe is already contaminated by TB germs it would be worthless
to mount efforts to prevent the disease. The community can help prevent
more infections by advising patients and non-patients to use a sputum bottle
rather than spluttering diseased saliva into the air or the ground as well
as other public places.
- "TB can be transmitted by careless
people- men and women-who spit on the floor, public places (sports fields),
walks or paths. Mixed with dust, some of the germs may be blown about and
breathed in by passers-by or carried into one's home on the sole of the
shoes" Your Medical Guide It further says children may get the germ
by playing in such places and soiling their hands and mouths, eventually
transmitting the virus far and wide. Another common way through which the
germ can be transmitted is by one putting another person's saliva-smeared
pen or whistle in to one's mouth or chewing a TB infected bow-point tip.
- It is better to prevent the illness by
applying strict caution in what goes in to one's mouth and lungs. Full
nights of prayer against demons of Multi-drug resistance-TB contacted due
to one's own negligence of preventative measures will not be of any benefit
except to dishonour the author and inspirer of these biblical words: "Ye
shall reap just what you sow ." (Galatians 6:7) And one other way
through which Tuberculosis is transmitted buying is infected meat and milk.
- Most people care less about where they
get their meat and milk- as long as it looks good . Whether it is from
an uncertified meat seller along that dusty road or at a dubiously run
abattoir in the township- coming to life only in the early hours of the
- One wonders why they only work under
the shadow of darkness- carcass-laden vans only appear when every one,
including road block police officers- is fast asleep. Very suspect.
- Isn't it? Lusaka City Council health
inspector, Chanda Bwalya, says:" It must be remembered that a risk
of TB infection does exist from the ingestion of specifically infected
(animal) organs or and the meat of a carcass affected with Tuberculosis.
"The best way to prevent buying infected meat, is to get one's meat
supplies from certified butcheries subjected to stringent and constant
health checks," says Mr. Bwalya.
- This is so because some cattle owners
slaughter sick animals for sale to the urban areas with absolutely no qualms
about what harm it will do to citizens . If the cow has TB, the germs may
affect the milk too.
- "Boiling the milk at 145 F(63C)
for half an hour or heating it at 160F (71C) for half a minute will kill
all the TB germs present. It is better to prevent the spread of this deadly
disease than to let it prevent many who are could have contributed to the
welfare of the nation due to TB.