Karachi: Addressing different awareness seminars and lectures organised in the city in connection with World Tuberculosis Day, which is observed every year on March 24, pulmonologists and other health experts urged people to screen themselves for TB if they experience a lasting cough.
They also advised people against ignoring symptoms such as fatigue, coughing up blood, chest pain, sweating at night, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss, urging them to complete their treatment to avoid their disease from turning multidrug-resistant (MDR), which is difficult to treat to the extent of being life-threatening.
The health experts said that despite the facility of free treatment in the country, annually some 121,000 patients abandon TB treatment, which not only turns the disease MDR, but also helps infect more people.
At the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Sindh TB Control Programme Additional Director Dr Abdul Khaliq Domki said efforts are under way to reduce the number of people abandoning their TB treatment by 91 per cent in the next three years and that of MDR-TB cases by five per cent by 2020.
Terming TB a threat to entire Pakistani society, Domki said that due to abandoning their treatment, patients are letting their disease turn MDR, which is not only life-threatening to them, but also to other healthy people whom they can infect.
“MDR-TB is resistant to many antibiotics and needs special drugs for a longer period of time to eliminate the microorganisms from the patient’s body. If the patient quits their treatment, it becomes incurable and a threat to the entire society.”
DUHS Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr Masroor said that every year 268 new TB cases per 100,000 people emerge while 73 old cases remain incurable, making it 341 TB cases per 100,000 people, which is an alarming ratio.
“Despite free treatment available in the country, people don’t approach health facilities, while many who start getting treatment abandon it midway, making MDR-TB one of the major national health issues at the moment.”
The awareness seminar on prevention, treatment and management of TB was organised by the Dow Institute of Chest Diseases (DICD) and, among others, it was addressed by DICD Director Prof Nisar Ahmed Rao, Deputy Director Dr Nadeem, Assistant Professor Dr Saifullah and Dr Asmat Ara.
The Sindh Institute of Urology & Transplantation (SIUT) had chalked out an elaborate plan, where the institute’s TB experts informed the visitors that Pakistan is included among seven countries that account for 64 per cent of all new TB cases in the global perspective. They said Pakistan is also a high burden country for MDR-TB.
Delivering an educational lecture on the disease, the experts pointed out that TB is an airborne disease, which means it can be caught by breathing in the air that an infected person has contaminated through breathing and coughing.
They said the basic aim of organising the event was to raise mass awareness about TB in terms of its signs, symptoms, spread, treatment and, most importantly, to highlight its preventive measures.
The awareness session was organised under the auspices of the SIUT’s Department of Infectious Diseases, which focuses on the communities where active cases are detected.
The institute had also set up free medical check-ups and consultations, provided dietary and nutritional advice, distributed educational literature on TB, screened educational videos on the disease, held an exhibition of informative posters and banners, and conducted interactive sessions between the SIUT’s medical staff and the participants of the event.
The SIUT experts included infectious diseases specialists Dr Asma Nasim, Dr Sunil Dodani and Dr Zaheeruddin Baber, pulmonologist Dr Masroor Afridi and dietician Kehkashan. A large number of people from all walks of life attended the event.
Tuberculosis is considered one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. In 2016 there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases reported globally, with a mortality of 1.7 million. In Pakistan, during the year 2016, it is estimated that 518,000 patients were diagnosed with TB, with an incidence of 268 per 100,000 people.