18 September 2015

Call to action: You can help end SA’s TB epidemic

TB kills hundreds of thousands of South Africans every year, but we can have a country free of this infectious disease and you can play a role in this.


Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the leading causes of deaths in South Africa and that is why everyone is being encouraged to get screened.

The Department of Health is calling upon all South Africans to take action and present themselves for screening in health facilities as well as during community campaigns in their areas.

Read: MPs shun public TB testing

"A TB free South Africa is possible with everyone’s commitment and participation in the TB screening campaigns," it said in a statement.

TB is an infectious bacterial disease that is caused by a germ that most commonly attacks and damages the lungs. It can be easily passed to others.

When an infected person coughs, sneezes or spits saliva onto the ground, the germs are spread into the surrounding air and remain there for a long time. If you inhale that air, you can breathe in the germs and get infected.

Read: Exciting new MDR-TB drug to be tried in South Africa

Despite government efforts to increase screening and testing, introducing new tests and second line TB medicines,  the ongoing transmission of TB in communities has not been curtailed.

"TB remains one of the major diseases of public health importance with more than 300 000 cases reported annually," said the department.

"Moreover, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) and extremely drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is on the increase with more than 10 000 and 500 cases reported annually respectively," it added.   

"This is compounded by the high HIV burden with co-infection rates estimated at 62 percent.  South Africa is one of the 22 countries with the highest burden of TB which contribute 80 percent of the total global burden of all TB cases."

Read: More than 40 000 prisoners screened for MDR-TB

On World TB Day the government announced plans to curb the scourge of TB by launching a campaign under the theme Ending South Africa’s TB epidemic.

As part of this, the department of health is targeting high risk groups such as inmates, miners, informal settlements, people living with HIV, pregnant women, children and diabetics to be screened.

Image: A TB screening campaign driven by the national department of health. (Supplied)

It said The How will I know? TB campaigns are presently being run in communities across the country.  

"The population is not only screened for TB but also tested and those found to have TB immediately put on treatment," said the department.

Also read:

Coughing up blood: when should you be concerned?

Khayelitsha clinic leads the way for new TB drug

Taxis look to ditch ‘deadly TB passenger’

Image: Medical report on TB from Shutterstock.


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Cough Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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