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Yes, we can end Tuberculosis (TB) as a public health threat in the Western Cape

Tuberculosis (TB) has been the leading cause of death in the Western Cape for more than a decade. While the disease is highly infectious, we also have the means to prevent and cure it, thanks to effective vaccines, testing and treatments available at our public healthcare facilities. Earlier today (20 March 2024), the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness and multi-sectoral partners hosted a community event in Paarl to raise awareness of Targeted Universal Testing for TB (TUTT).

The theme for this year is ‘Yes, we can beat TB’ and culminates in World TB Day on Sunday, 24 March 2024.
In previous years, the department tested individuals who presented with TB symptoms and those in vulnerable groups who were more likely to get TB. With TUTT, as recommended by the National Department of Health, individuals are now tested who have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with TB as well, regardless of their symptoms. This is enabling very early diagnosis and initiation of treatment and will save many lives over the years.

Since the introduction of TUTT, a systematic approach of screening and testing TB, in July 2023, the Department of Health and Wellness has started testing vulnerable individuals such as TB tested individuals as well as their family members and the immunocompromised regardless if they have symptoms. The aim is to ensure we ensure early detection and linkage to TB treatment and preventative therapy. While strides have been made in TB treatment and care in the province, we are deeply saddened by the loss of 311 lives to TB-related complications between 2023 and 2024. This highlights the continued urgency of our multi-sectoral TB response plan efforts to encourage individuals to complete their TB treatment and seek treatment.

Our key indicators show us that to date:  

  • Between 2019 and 2022, 121 917 patients started on TB treatment and in 2022 the TB treatment success rate reached 84.1%;
  • The rate of successfully treating patients with multidrug-resistant TB is 0.5%;
  • The TB death rate is 0.6% for drug-sensitive TB (DS TB) and 12% for drug-resistant TB (DR TB);
  • Our TB screening rate for the 5 years and older presenting with symptoms is 0.6%.
  • Our TB screening rate for the children below 5 years presenting with symptoms is 0.7%; and
  • The rate of TB patients lost to follow up is 28.1%.

 

“While TB is a health-related issue, it is also a socio-economic problem that needs a multipronged approach for medical interventions which is why our responsibility as the Department of Health and Wellness is to ensure TB screening and treatment is accessible to communities,” says Prof Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness.


Minister Mbombo reiterates how important adherence to knowing symptoms and seeking treatment to stop the spread of TB. “We encourage patients to seek every opportunity to get tested especially when showing sides of TB and remain of the provided treatment.”


The most common symptoms of TB include:

  • A persistent or unexplained cough.
  • Bloody sputum or phlegm.
  • Pain in your chest when coughing or breathing.
  • Weight loss and/or loss of appetite. Or inadequate growth in children (not gaining weight as expected).
  • Malaise or fever.
  • Sweating profusely at night.

 

TB disease can affect any part of the body, so please ask your healthcare worker to consider if you have any unexplained health symptoms or problems. You can get a TB test even if you do not have any symptoms. TB testing is free at all clinics. If you have any questions, speak to a healthcare worker at your nearest clinic.

The Department’s vision remains, a Western Cape that is free of TB one day, with zero deaths, disease and suffering due to TB.

 

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