JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Statistics show that the country has experienced a marginal decrease in the cases of Tuberculosis (TB) over the past two years.
  • Persons with impaired immune systems such as diabetics and persons who are HIV positive, prisoners, persons in nursing homes, and the malnourished, are at risk for TB.
  • Health care workers are also at risk, because some persons who seek medical care, are undiagnosed.

Chest Hospital Launches Awareness Activities

As Jamaica observed World TB Day on Monday, March 24, statistics show that the country has experienced a marginal decrease in the cases of Tuberculosis (TB) over the past two years.

The prevalence of the disease has been relatively steady at six per 100,000 since 1991. While up to 2011 there was a steady average of 114 cases per year, there has been a relative decline in 2012 and 2013, with 96 cases recorded for both years.

This was disclosed by Medical Internist and Consultant Physician at the National Chest Hospital, Dr. Tanya Foster, in an interview with JIS News.

She explained that persons with impaired immune systems such as diabetics and persons who are HIV positive, prisoners, persons in nursing homes, and the malnourished, are at risk for TB.

She said health care workers are also at risk, because of their exposure to undiagnosed infected persons.

She added that not everyone who becomes infected have active disease and that such persons who have the latent form of the disease may be candidates for prophylaxis to prevent it from becoming active disease.

Dr. Foster also indicated that TB does not only affect the lungs. It can also affect other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes, the kidney, the bowel and the bones. However, when the infection is localised in these areas, it is not airborne and therefore not infectious.

She explained that Active Pulmonary TB is the airborne communicable form of the disease and can be contracted when the bacteria is inhaled. “If an infected person coughs, sneezes or spits the bacteria gets dispersed in the air and inhalation result in infection,” she said.

“One in every 10 persons who gets infected can develop active disease and can transmit the infection to other persons. Some of the symptoms of Active Pulmonary TB Syndrome are chronic cough, persisting for more than two weeks, especially when blood is expectorated, fever, weight loss and night sweats,” she said.

“They are not specific to TB however, so persons would have to have an index of suspicion or a compelling reason to believe that they have been infected particularly if they have been exposed to someone who has the disease,” she added.

She encouraged infected persons to practice proper cough etiquette. “Do not cough openly in the air, use a napkin, use your elbow and wash hands properly after coughing. We continue to administer the BCG vaccine to all infants to prevent the severe form of the disease in childhood and contact tracing is done once a patient presents to a health facility,” she said.

Dr. Foster explained that contact tracing is locating and screening persons who may have been in close contact with infected persons, such as family members and co-workers and treating those who have been infected. This is done because an infected person can infect 10 to 15 persons per year.

“The good news is that the condition is curable with antibiotics. The treatment course is approximately six months and patients must stick to treatment for optimal results,” she added.

World TB Day is celebrated on March 24 every year. The Ministry of Health in association with the National Chest Hospital has organised a week of activities that began on Sunday, with a church service at the North Kingston United Pentecostal Church.

A public display and community outreach will be held at the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, March 25, while on Wednesday, March 26, another display will be held at the Boulevard Super Centre.

On Thursday, training will be conducted for the staff at the Horizon Correctional Facility, and on Friday there will be a training session for health care workers at Up Park Camp.

The theme of World TB Day 2014 is ‘Find. Treat. Cure TB’ highlighting the fact that many cases of TB are undiagnosed. The World Health Organization (WHO) is of the view that of the estimated three million undiagnosed persons infected with the disease, many are migrants, miners, drug users and sex workers. The WHO has called for a global effort to accelerate towards zero TB deaths by finding, treating and curing TB.