Kenya struggles to treat resistant TB

January 20, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 20 – Only 10 percent of patients who require treatment for the highly contagious Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) are accessing the necessary care, Public Health Minister Beth Mugo revealed on Tuesday.

Mrs Mugo said the government had only managed to put 30 of the 300 patients who need it on treatment.

She said the government could not afford to put all the patients on the treatment at a go, due to its expensive nature with a single patient requiring about Sh1.3 million for full treatment of the disease.

“You know it takes planning, the cost is astronomical but our plan is to put all of them on treatment very soon,” the Minister assured.

“Sometimes we have to go with the budget. In our Ministry’s budget that’s what we have for now,” she said.

She spoke when she received a donation of 10 vehicles from the Canadian government to be used for monitoring and evaluation of Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Lung disease.

“I appeal to other development partners to come forward and support this treatment,” the Minister petitioned.

“I am sure we will get more support because this disease is not just for Kenya.  If we can’t stop it here, its going to spread even to those other countries.” 

MDR-TB is a more serious kind of TB that is resistant to treatment. Even more challenging is the existence of Extensively Drug Resistant (XDR) TB which has been reported in South Africa.

XDR TB is more complicated to treat and often leads to death hence the need for the Kenyan government to control further spread of MDR-TB.

“There are now over 930 TB diagnostic sites and more than 1,600 TB treatment facilities throughout the country,” the Minister said in regard to what the government was doing to deal with the challenge.

TB was declared an emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1993. It accounts for almost 20 percent of all deaths in the age group of 15-44 years in Kenya and 26 percent of all preventable deaths.

Kenya was in 2006, the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to meet the global targets of detecting 70 percent of infectious TB cases and curing 85 percent of the cases.

Meanwhile, Acting Director of Public Health and Sanitation, Dr Shahnaaz Sharif has said there is no cause for alarm over reports of an outbreak of the deadly Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The virus is said to have infected close to 40 people and caused more than 10 deaths in that country.

“We know about it and we have already started monitoring our border points but WHO has said it should not be a reason to quarantine passengers coming from DRC or Uganda,” he said adding that so far, no case has been reported in Kenya.

The outbreak of the deadly virus was first confirmed in DRC in December 2008.
Ebola is a virus that has no cure and is easily transmitted between people through contact with body fluids, and usually leads to death.


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