SIALKOT: “There is a need to raise awareness among people that tuberculosis (TB) is curable but that it requires an eight-month long treatment. Most people die due to TB because they leave their treatment midway,” Dr Nadeem Nazeer, the Sialkot TB programme in-charge, said on Wednesday.
He was addressing an anti-TB awareness raising session. The session was organised by the Health Department in collaboration with the Mercy Corps Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation.
“TB is 100 per cent curable but it requires complete treatment, proper care and attention,” he said, adding, that with the growing number of patients, the disease had been declared a national emergency.
He said that a TB patient left untreated on average ended up spreading the disease among 15 people.
He told the attendants that the Sialkot Health Department registered 5,660 new TB patients from January to September.
He said that the actual number of TB patients in the district could be higher as 5,660 was only the number of patients registered with the public hospitals. He said that more people with TB symptoms were now consulting the hospitals as a result of several public awareness campaigns.
Of the total, he said, 1,818 were patients were registered during the first quarter (from January to March), 2,000 during the second (from April to June) and 1,850 during the third (from July to September).
Dr Nazeer said that a total of 10 patients, most of them males, died because they had opted out of the treatment. He said that recovery rate of TB patients in the districts was around 96 per cent, while default rate (the rate of patients who quit treatment midway) was 3 per cent.
He said that TB was among the most common diseases in prisoners. He said so far nine TB cases had been reported in the Sialkot district jail.
He said that the district Health Department had recently launched the Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course (DOTS) in the district jail to raise awareness about the disease. The inmates with TB symptoms are being provided with free-of-charge medicines under the DOTS programme, he added.
He said that there were 16 diagnostic and 100 treatment centres for the disease across the four tehsils of the district. He said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) was providing free-of charge medicines in these centres for the complete eight-month long TB treatment course.
He said that under WHO recommendations, one person needs to be attached with TB patients as their treatment supporter.
Besides, he said, all family members of the patients have to be examined for the occurrence of the disease.
Mercy Corps Pakistan coordinator, Liaqat Khan, said that every passing second was increasing a TB patient in the world. He said that about 8,000 people were dying every day due to the disease. The death rate per annum, he said, was up to 3 billion people.
He said that this number was much higher than the number of people dying annually due to AIDS or malaria. He said that Pakistan currently stood 8th in the world for the number of TB patients.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2010.