We need aggressive approach to curb TB

By: PHILIP MOMANYI MAOSA

The recently launched tuberculosis survey by the Ministry of Health is an appropriate part of national efforts to fight the disease. Tuberculosis has become an almost insurmountable scourge in Kenya.

The ministry billed the survey, launched in September 2015, as an attempt to minimise infection rates and future efforts to eradicate the disease.

Some 90,000 new TB cases were reported last year, most of them in Mombasa.

According to the 2014 Kenya Economic Survey, TB is ranked among the top five killer diseases, claiming more than 10,000 lives every year.

To ameliorate the TB burden, the government must, first, stop the blame games.

The ministry attributed the growing infection rate in Mombasa to environmental conditions such as overcrowding and poor ventilation.

Evidently, the poor are the ones confronted with these conditions.

This means that despite all the endeavours to treat the patients, infection rates will continue to rise as they will return to the conditions that made them susceptible to the disease in the first place.

The government needs to address overcrowding.

BENCHMARKING

Secondly, county health officials need to consult India on how it became polio-free.

India began its anti-polio campaign in 1995. It spent more than $3 billion on the initiative that immunised more than 95 per cent of its primary target.

Politicians and religious leaders went from door to door to assure citizens of the safety of the vaccine and explain its importance.

Early this year, the Kenyan Government launched a strategy to eliminate TB by 2030. It is to be hoped that this intervention will produce the desired effect.

Close monitoring of TB patients is important to follow up on their progress and ensure that they do not renege on their commitment to complete the treatment.

The Ministry of Health should promote campaigns on hygiene. TB is an airborne disease that can infect many people.

The people should be taught safety precautions such as covering one’s mouth when coughing and opening windows for adequate air circulation.

COMMUNITY-LED INITIATIVES

When Ebola struck in Sierra Leone, the government rolled out community-led initiatives to inform villagers how the disease is contracted and how to avoid it.

Sensitising the public about the disease is vital in encouraging openness among the infected and discouraging stigmatisation.

Although tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease, the community should be made aware that it is preventable and treatable and that victims should not be ostracised.

Lastly, there must be effective, affordable, and easy-to-dispatch measures to bring down the infection rate.

The government’s TB survey is a start to dealing with the disease as it will provide data to narrow the target population.

However, for the campaign to bear good results, it must be interactive. That means that Kenyans should be engaged in the process, which should be carried out to its logical conclusion.