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Tuberculosis is a major cause of death across the world. The City’s health department has been travelling to all regions to build awareness of the disease and teach ways to avoid it.
THE City has been conducting imbizos and door-to-door campaigns in the build-up to World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on Saturday, 24 March.

City clinics give free testing treatment for TBCity clinics give free testing and treatment for TBTB has been dubbed a major cause of death, especially in developing countries, and as a result this day is set aside each year to build public awareness of the epidemic.

In an effort to improve skills and knowledge about the debilitating disease, the City of Johannesburg’s Health and Social Development Department has embarked on an extensive health awareness drive in all regions.

This drive, which began on 8 March at the Denver Hostel in Denver (Region F) before moving to the Neighbourhood Centre in Diepsloot (Region A) on 16 March, headed to the Kopanong Centre in Dobsonville (Region D) on 22 March and then to the Windsor Community Centre in Windsor (Region B) on 23 March.

The awareness drive will move to Community Church Plot 61, Princess in Roodepoort (Region C) on 28 March; the Alexsan Kopano Hall, Alexandra (Region E) on 30 March; and Freedom Park Ward 119 in Soweto on 8 April.

World TB Day marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch detected the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. This was a first step towards diagnosing and curing the disease.
On the 100th anniversary of Koch’s discovery, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease launched World TB Day.

Stop TB Initiative
In 1996, the World Health Organisation (WHO) joined the Union and other groups to promote the day. The Stop TB Partnership, called the Stop TB Initiative at the time of its inception, was established two years later. It is a network of organisations and countries fighting tuberculosis. WHO works with this partnership to support the activities and events that take place on World TB Day each year.

“TB is a serious problem all over the world,” notes Nkosinathi Nkabinde, the City’s spokesperson. “TB is an infectious disease; it can be passed on from one person to another. TB is spread through the air when someone who has TB coughs, spits or sneezes.”

Yet “TB is totally curable.  Medication is given which must be taken every day of a week, for a period of six to eight months. It is essential for persons to complete a full course of TB treatment to be cured.”

He adds that “Last year the Minister of Health announced a new approach to deal decisively with the TB epidemic in South Africa. The approach included (a) intensified case finding, based on case finding at household level using contact tracing teams, (b) unveiling and rolling out the GeneXpert diagnostic laboratory tests to diagnose susceptible and drug-resistant TB, (c) opening nine new multi-drug resistant(MDR) TB in-patient facilities.”

TB patients
In Johannesburg intensified case finding efforts include following up all drug resistant and susceptible patients and their contacts, he says.

“All contacts were screened for TB, and those less than five years [old] and HIV-positive contacts that were not infected with TB were provided with TB preventative therapy, (also known as isoniazid (INH) preventative therapy), for a period of six months. The therapy prevents development of TB disease.”

The GeneXpert diagnostic laboratory tests in Joburg have been conducted at National Health Laboratories Services (NHLS) at Chris Hani Baragwanath and Edenvale Hospitals and lately at Helen Joseph.

Says Nkabinde: “The greatest advantage of the new test is that it diagnoses drug resistant TB at the onset of treatment. During 2011 there were 635 drug resistant TB patients diagnosed by the NHLS in Johannesburg. Multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extremely drug resistant (XDR) TB patients are treated at Sizwe Hospital, in Sandringham, Johannesburg.”

During the same year (2011) there were 21 399 new cases of TB diagnosed in Joburg and patients placed on treatment continue to be monitored closely, he says.

“The City currently boasts a new smear positive cure rate and treatment success rate of all TB patients of 81 percent. The Gauteng Health Department acknowledged the steady increase in cure rate achieved by the City by awarding the ‘Best Performing District’ trophy to the City in November 2011. The new smear positive cure rate improved from 68 percent in 2005 to 81 percent in 2010.”

World TB Day
Nkabinde says during the commemoration of World TB Day, residents are urged to join in the fight against the disease by:

Practising cough hygiene: Place a tissue-like paper in front of your mouth when coughing or sneezing or else cough or sneeze into your sleeve. This will not only contain the spread of TB but also curtail the spread of common colds and flu;
Avoiding overcrowding and always opening windows wherever you are, in winter and summer. TB germs are diluted in fresh air;
Testing for TB if you are coughing for more than two weeks or showing symptoms of TB infection, such as loss of weight and night sweats. The test is free and early diagnosis can improve your chances of being cured; and
Also testing for HIV. HIV-positive persons get TB more easily because of their lowered resistance to disease. TB preventative medication is available at all health facilities in the City for persons living with HIV who have not contracted TB.
TB testing and treatment are free at all government clinics. Individuals that have been coughing for more than two weeks and are suffering from a loss of weight and night sweats should consider having a free TB test done.

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