Conquering TB by putting up a strong fight on the ground

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  • The incidence of new tuberculosis cases in Myanmar has reached 358 for every 100,000 people, and the number of deaths stands at 51, according to data from a nationwide project launched in 2018 to fight TB.
    While statistics show the annual rate of TB cases has declined to 3.5 per cent, Myanmar is still on the list of 30 countries most affected by TB.
    In 2018, the Ministry of Health and Sports provided treatment to over 135,000 TB patients, and recorded an 87 per cent rate of success in nationwide medical care. The ministry’s mobile medical teams carried out field trips to diagnose and treat TB patients, reaching areas which were difficult to access, along with factories and prisons.
    The Ministry of Health and Sports cannot fight TB alone. It will take the combined strength of the concerned ministries and departments, international non-governmental organizations, local NGOs, and civil society organizations to rid the country of this contagious disease.
    It is also important for people to be able to spot early symptoms, report them to the nearest health department, and take prescribed medications.
    The Union Minister for Health and Sports has said that five mobile digital X-Ray vehicles would be put in service to speed up diagnosis of TB. While both TB and HIV treatments have been made available in townships across the country since 2016, the country still needs to increase the administration of HIV scans for TB patients and ART (antiretroviral therapy) coverage to 90 per cent, he said.
    During the Third Drug Resistance Survey conducted in 2012-2013, Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDRTB) was found in 5 per cent of new TB patients, and in 27 per cent of recurring TB patients, said the Union Minister.
    The treatment deficit for MDRTB was 43 per cent in 2012, but was reduced significantly to 17 per cent by 2017.
    There are three BSL-3 TB labs in Yangon, Mandalay, and Taunggyi that perform scans for MDRTB. There are also 86 Gene-Xpert module machines available for rapid diagnostic testing for MDRTB across the country.
    The Nationwide TB Prevalence Survey 2017-2018 was carried out from October, 2017, to September, 2018. According to the survey, 73 per cent of TB patients are men.
    It was found that over 50 per cent of TB patients are aged 50 and above. The figures from the survey indicate the country has managed to control TB infections to a certain extent.
    When we draw up a strategy to fight TB for 2021-2025, it is important we make plans that can be carried out on the ground on the basis of continual evaluation and research.
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