Pakistan News

‘160,000 TB cases are not reported’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is ranked fifth among countries with the highest incidence of tuberculosis (TB), and the key to controlling the disease is to raise awareness about its symptoms, experts said.

On the eve of World Tuberculosis Day being observed on Sunday, National Coordinator for Common Management Unit for TB, Aids and Malaria Dr Aamer Ikram told Dawn that Pakistan was the fourth country in terms of number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB, which was the most difficult to treat.

“MDR TB is the one which grows when the patient stop taking medicines without completion of the course. We register patients and try to ensure that every patient completes the course. Unfortunately, TB is a stigma in the country so patients try to hide the disease and get treatment privately. As a result, many times they miss the medicines,” he said.

“Though the cure rate for TB in over 95pc, around 160,000 cases in the country are not reported at all which means that they either don’t go to hospitals or get treatment privately,” Dr Ikram added.

“Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh have done legislation making private clinics bound to inform the government about the number of cases,” he said.

Dr Ikram said the government had merged TB, Aids and malaria programmes to get maximum results.

“Though government provides funding, the maximum funds come from the Global Fund which has been providing $205 million for the three-year programme to be completed in 2020. Moreover, DNA based GeneXpert machines are being provided to the country. We have around 300 functional machines and the number would increase to 400 soon. Moreover, nine special x-ray machines have also been provided to provinces. Around 5,000 general practitioners have been sensitised and awareness is being given to polio teams, lady health workers and other officials to see if people have fever, complaint of sweating and loss of appetite, and encourage them to get themselves tested for TB,” he said.

Media Coordinator for Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Dr Waseem Khawaja said it must be ensured that patients follow the full course of medication for the prescribed period.

“Every person having symptoms of the disease should get themselves tested in a hospital. At Pims, on an average, we treat over 4,000 patients every year,” he said.

“TB spreads through the air and is contagious. On an average, a person with infectious TB infects 10 to 15 others every year, if not treated well. A person who takes TB medicines regularly stops infecting others in about two weeks,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2019

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