In commemoration of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, The Department of Health Bicol Center for Health Development (DOH-Bicol CHD) highlights the importance of ensuring adequate resources for the prevention of TB and care for TB patients. This year’s theme, “Invest to End TB. Save Lives,” conveys the urgent need to invest in resources in the fight against the disease.
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis or tuberde bacilli. It can affect the lungs (pulmonary TB) or other parts of the body (extra-pulmonary TB). It is spread primarily through inhalation of bacteria released from air droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
According to the 2020 National TB Report, Philippines has the highest TB incidence in Asia, with 554 TB cases per 100,000 people in 2019. It is also one of the thirty countries with highest TB-burden in the world. To attain a TB-free Philippines, it is important to find and treat Filipinos who have the infectious disease.
Lilian Rose Contessa Encisa, a medical technologist, and a Senior Health Program Officer at the DOH-Bicol CHD, shared during the radio program “Chikahang Pangkalusugan” when and where individuals should get tested for TB. According to her, if an individual manifests signs and symptoms of tuberculosis, they should immediately go to the nearest health center or to TB-Directly Observed Therapy (TB-DOTs) facility for proper diagnosis.
“People who have signs and symptoms should immediately go to the nearest health center where they will find the TB-DOTS facility. This is where TB services are being offered for free,”
The signs and symptoms of TB include cough for two weeks or more, which may or may not be accompanied by fever, chest or back pain not referable to other diseases, loss of weight, and blood-streaked sputum or hemoptysis.
Both testing and treatment for TB in local health centers are free. While patients may prefer to seek medical advice of physicians from private hospitals, Encisa said that partner private hospitals may refer them to the Rapid TB Diagnosic Laboratories (RTDLs) or TB-DOTS facilities which offer free testing for TB. In the Bicol Region, there are currently 47 functional RTDLs that can be found across the 6 provinces.
Additionally, there are also 8 treatment centers for Programmatic Management of Drug Resistant TB where patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis can access free treatment. To prevent drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is a form of antimicrobial resistance, Encisa said that it is important for TB patients to ensure treatment completion.
Tuberculosis affects both children and adults, but immunocompromised individuals – such as senior citizens, smokers, diabetics, and people living with HIV – are at a higher risk. Individuals can prevent infection by practicing proper cough etiquette, refraining from spitting in public places, staying in well-ventilated environments, and adopting a healthy lifestyle to boost the body’s immunity.
This is a call for everyone to invest in our health. INVEST TO #ENDTB!