Tuberculosis, TB, is a contagious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria which normally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. In the past, tuberculosis was considered a death sentence causing the demise of many Belizeans. With the introduction of new medicine, many lives are being saved. Love news spoke with Dr. Melissa Diaz of Central Health Region, who shared that there is no longer a need to quarantine people who contract the disease since the treatment allows for better control of the disease.
Dr. Melissa Diaz Primary Health Care Coordinator, CHR: “We have had a steady diagnosis of about one hundred cases per year over the last ten years or so. In 2016 we started with the global funds which had given us the opportunity to do more training, sensitization, training of our frontline staff and eventually training of all the technical staff on how to diagnose, how to treat, how to counsel patients with tuberculosis. An important message is that it can be cured once it is picked up quickly and once we think about it and that it is a possible diagnosis as health care providers then we start the treatment and a patient will do well usually after the first intensive treatment so for the first two years. We have done a lot more to sensitize our staff to start thinking more about tuberculosis and making the diagnosis. There is the vaccine called BCG which is apart of our country’s normal vaccine scheme and that is given at birth usually and that helps to protect you at least for ten to fifteen years, especially in children it helps to prevent tuberculosis as well as the complications of tuberculosis.”
Diaz said that symptoms include coughing, night sweat and loss of weight.
Dr. Melissa Diaz Primary Health Care Coordinator, CHR: “There are two main phases for treatment for active tuberculosis: the first phase is called the intensive phase and that is two months of daily medication. The Ministry of Health and the TB Program, we do the DOTS which is the Direct Observation Treatment so everyday that person either needs to come to the facility or we go to the home and we observe them taking the medication. This is for four months so once you complete the intensive phase you move on to a continuation phase and the continuation phase is four months with two medications but it is joint in one pill. Most of our cases are between the age ranges of twenty four to fifty five. We notice now that it is more males than females and approximately one in three of these positive cases are HIV Positive.”
People with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to the disease because persons with HIV/AIDS tend to have a weak immune system. And while Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24, there are activities being held today to commemorate the day and to sensitize people to the signs and symptoms of the disease.