TUBERCULOSIS, with 221 patients per 1,00,000 people, which the World Health Organisations finds to be a high incidence, still remains a major public health concern, as New Age reported on Friday, although Bangladesh took up the tuberculosis eradication programme with support from the World Health Organisation in 1993. What remains more worrisome is that 72 patients per 1,00,000 people still remain outside the process of diagnosis, as the National Tuberculosis Control Programme puts it. While the rate of diagnosis remains at 67, with 3,06,000 patients being diagnosed each year, the 33 per cent of the patients that remain undiagnosed stand to be potential transmitters of the disease. With at least 66,000 people dying of tuberculosis every year, the World Health Organisation considers Bangladesh to be the seventh highest nation for tuberculosis incidence. Although tuberculosis, which is considered a notifiable disease, is curable, it could become fatal if it is left untreated. A situation like this calls out the government on putting in more efforts in the eradication of the disease as public health experts and physicians blame the lack of awareness and the inadequacy of the screening mechanism for such a high incidence of tuberculosis.
The management of the disease is also reported to have a couple of other problems that call for immediate government attention. At least 5,300 tuberculosis patients become, as the National Tuberculosis Control Programme data show, multi-drug resistant. At least 29 per cent of the patients become multi-drug resistant every year because of irregular medication, which puts Bangladesh, on a WHO estimation, to be the 13th most multi-drug resistant tuberculosis burden nation in the world. Childhood tuberculosis also remains a cause of concern for the country. As statistics show, 10,062 child tuberculosis patients account for 4.32 per cent of the country’s total tuberculosis patients. While the age of the child tuberculosis patients varies within the range of 0 and 14 years, the disease is not diagnosed in at least 10 per cent of the child tuberculosis patients, the National Tuberculosis Control Programme data show. The situation is thus despite there being screening and treatment services in hospitals at the upazila and the district level and even in clinics run by non-governmental organisations and even the screening and treatment services run free by the government. With the picture remaining so bleak, Bangladesh observes World Tuberculosis Day this year with the theme, ‘Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free World.’
The government, under the circumstances, must put in the required efforts to stamp out tuberculosis. With 33 per cent of the patents going untreated, many of the patients becoming multi-drug resistant and childhood tuberculosis still remaining a major concern, there is no scope for the government to take up the issue lightly. It must launch a vigorous search programme to find the tuberculosis patients who are still not under the coverage of treatment. The government must shore up its efforts in this direction up to the upazila level and run the needed awareness campaign.
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