, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 4 – Tuberculosis remains high in Kenya, and experts say the country lags behind in the fight against the disease.
Close to 40 per cent of the country’s TB cases go undetected with the disease found to be higher than initially thought.
A national TB prevalence survey found that 82,000 people were diagnosed and treated for TB in 2015 but that the actual number of people who contract the disease every year is actually 138,105.
Head of the Department of Curative and Rehabilitative Service Izaq Odongo said the survey by the ministry of health shows that there are more TB cases than previously estimated with a TB prevalence of 558 per 100,000 people compared to World Health Organisation’s 233 cases per 100,000.
Cases not detected pose a challenge as three quarter of the people, with TB symptoms, who sought health care did not get diagnosed while a quarter of those found to have the disease did not report any symptoms.
Also TB was found to be higher in men between the ages of 25 and 34 years, urban dwellers, and women over the age of 65.
The majority 83 pc of TB cases were HIV negative, suggesting that broad efforts at controlling TB in people with and without HIV are needed.
Considering that one undiagnosed and untreated individual can infect 10 to 15 people, this pool of missed TB cases continues to fuel the spread of the disease.
“In light of these results and in an effort to find the missing TB cases, the Government commits to: screen all persons with respiratory symptoms seeking care at health facilities for TB; carry out targeted screening and active case finding among high risk groups and expand the use of Chest X-ray to screen all persons presumed to have TB,” said Dr Odongo.
Dr Odongo noted that the information will help with planning. “We can have strategic plans that really target people at most risk, people who are missed. And so we are able to find them and provide them with treatment.”
According to Kenya’s National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Program, the major factor responsible for the large TB disease burden is the concurrent HIV epidemic.
Other contributing factors include poverty and social deprivation that have led to a mushrooming of peri-urban slums between cities and the countryside, and limited access to general health care services.
According to Global Fund, Africa carried 13 percent of the world’s population but contributed 26 percent of the global TB burden.
The organisation urged African countries to rise their domestic funding in order to win the war against TB, given that 16 out of the 30 high TB burden countries in the world are in Africa.
USAID Health, Population and Nutrition Office Chief Randolph Augustin lauded Kenya’s efforts in conducting the TB survey saying that reliable data can direct interventions better.
“As long as we are breathing we are vulnerable to TB. Let us continue working together to rip Kenya off the misery that accompanies this disease,” he stated.
The National TB Prevalence Survey 2016 is the first TB survey post-independence.
It was conducted through community level screening of 63,000 people in 45 counties between July 2015 and July 2016.