Outdated machines to blame for TB rise

September 23, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, September 23 – The Ministry of Public Health has said that archaic diagnostic equipment in Kenyan laboratories is a contributor to the constant high cases of Tuberculosis in the country.

The head of TB at the Ministry, Dr Joseph Sitienei on Tuesday said by the end of last year, there were close to 117,000 reported cases of TB out of which 82 were multi drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). This is a new strain of TB that is resistant to treatment and is caused by use of sub-standard drugs as well as irregular intake of medication.

“Diagnosis of TB relies on so many things. One of them is people who are well trained and with the right skills to be able to use the equipment they have. But if on the other hand you are using obsolete equipment then you cannot be able to detect TB cases efficiently and that is one of the areas the government is trying to look at,” Sitienei said.

He noted that the increased HIV/AIDS prevalence rate was also posing a threat to containing TB cases. Currently,  Sitienei added, there were only 930 laboratories for TB across the country which needed to be doubled for better service delivery.

“The government has taken measures to ensure there are 50 additional laboratories annually over the next five years,” he said.

Sitienei also pointed out that a new diagnostic method which would offer faster diagnosis of MDR-TB had been introduced in the market. This, he said would show the type of germ that was affecting patients since there are different germs that cause TB.

“So far in this country we have only used it in one lab, The Central Reference Laboratory, and we want to scale it up.  It will assist us in terms of reducing the time at which you make that diagnosis from more than two weeks to a few hours,” he said.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has cited the lack of essential health services and poor hygiene conditions as the major contributors to child mortality in Kenya.

Country representative Dr Olivia Yambi said child mortality in the country was still high due to poor hygiene and sanitation leading to diarrhoea and other diseases. This, she said was despite the various intervention strategies taking place.

Dr Yambi disclosed that three rounds of intensive public awareness campaigns had been conducted since last year in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health.

“There is a big disparity in child mortality in Kenya. In Central province for instance, under five mortality is 54 children per 1,000.  In Western, Nyanza and North Eastern there are up to 200 deaths but we hope that with all the interventions, we will no longer be talking about such high figures,” she said.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said there was an ongoing community strategy to create more public awareness noting that one in every nine children in the country dies of preventable diseases.

“We already did that at the headquarters about two weeks ago but we are going to the provinces now. The community strategy encompasses hand washing, prevention of malaria and diarrhoea in curtailing child mortality,” Mrs Mugo said.


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