Authorities in charge of The Gambia’s Tuberculosis Control Programme have said there has been a steady decline in the spread of the disease but warned that more corrective steps were needed for its total elimination.
They gave the observation on Tuesday at a day’s event marking World Tuberculosis Day at the TB Control office in Kanifing.
In his statement, the programme manager of National Leprosy and TB Control Programme, Mr Adama Jallow, said the overall aim of his office is to reduce TB prevalence by at least 2 percent a year. He said: “The overall aim is to reduce TB prevalence by at least 2 percent from the current 128 to 118 per 100, 000 population, with the objective of detecting at least 95% of all the TB patients within 2 weeks of onset of symptoms and achieve and sustain a treatment success rate of at least 95% from a baseline of 89% in 2014 for all new patients by 2017.
“The overall national prevalence of all forms of TB in The Gambia is 128/100, 000 population which is 3.8 times lower than the 490/100, 000 estimated in 2013 Global TB report and The defaulter rate decline from 14% in 2005 to 0% in 2014.”
Jallow went on to reveal that currently there are 38 TB diagnostic centres across the country, improving access to care and support, with digital X-Ray machine in Serekunda Hospital and Brikama TB Clinic and scaled-up TB diagnostic centres in both prison and military Barracks.
With all the above listed achievements, he said if they continue achieving high political commitment by the government and progressively maintaining a good programmatic and financial performance in the current GF grand, TB will be eradicated in the near future.
Reading the WHO regional director’s message on the World TB Day, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, WHO representative in The Gambia said every year, there is an estimated 9 million new TB cases worldwide. He stated that 3 million cases are either not diagnosed, not treated, or are diagnosed and not registered by national TB control programmes. He added: “Reaching, treating and curing all those with TB especially the vulnerable groups and communities is a critical part of the solution and we need to do more-including work across all sectors to prevent TB through poverty reduction and social protection and achieve universal health coverage.
“Vulnerable populations including children and women, people living with HIV, people with diabetes, refugees, miners and ex-miners, prisoners and drug users whose access to basic health care services may be limited. The poor are also at risk, especially homeless persons and individuals living in densely populated communities.”
In spite of this progress, Dr Moses said TB continues to be a major public health concern. He said the African region has the highest TB and TB/HIV co-infection rates in the world and the emerging of drug resistant TB and it relates diseases is yet to be adequately addressed. He noted that over the last 12 months, WHO estimated that TB was responsible for over half-a-million deaths in the region.
On his part, Dr Abdou Sillah, the research clinician, Childhood TB, MRC Fajara, said TB in children is a neglected topic worldwide as it is more difficult to diagnose and control. He said the programmes often put emphasis on adults, as they are seen to spread the TB bacilli in the communities. He added that every year around 70 000 children die from TB worldwide and half of a million are newly infected which means that they can become adults transmitting TB in the future.
He explained further: “Most children especially the very young acquire TB from an adult household member who is ill with active TB. Our intervention strategy therefore consists of establishing targeted household contact screening facilities in order to achieve objective such as setting up services for household contact tracing in the greater Banjul Area, to identify the percentages of exposed, infected and diseased children in those household and to place all children under 5 year old in the households on chemo prophylactic treatment among others.”