Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis which attacks the lungs mostly but also other parts of the body and is said to be one of the world’s top infectious diseases, as it claims 4,500 lives each day.
In many parts of the world in times gone by, people diagnosed with the disease were avoided and often stigmatised, sometimes ostracised because of the nature of its spread, until 1882 when Dr Robert Koch, the German physician and microbiologist, announced the discovery of the cause of the disease, opening the way towards its diagnosis and cure.
The disease continues to have devastating health, social and economic consequences on people, families and economies around the world. Although it is known to be curable, many countries continue to suffer from its effects.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, of the 30 countries globally with the highest burden of TB, 24 are in the WHO African Region. In 2017, nearly 2.5 million people who contracted TB lived in sub-Saharan Africa, out of which 665,000 of them died, with Ghana ranking 20th in the world. Again, TB is the fourth leading killer in Ghana, with deaths from the disease reaching 9,830 or 4.67 per cent of total deaths as of 2017, according to statistics.
For these and many others, Ghana needs to take stringent measures to ensure that the disease is eradicated. This year’s theme to mark World TB Day: “It’s time….Find the people living with tuberculosis”, shows the determination of the international health community to face the challenge TB poses head on.
The Daily Graphic joins in the call to spread awareness of the causes of the disease. As has been shown by health experts, although TB is easily curable, it can lie dormant and undetected for years. It is, therefore, important to create awareness of the disease, so that people who may be living with it will get cured.
Fortunately, treatment of TB in the country is free and we urge all citizens to test for the disease to help in the fight to eradicate it. We must all remember that society’s ability to eradicate a disease can only succeed if individuals make the effort towards that.
For this individual effort to succeed, we must all help identify persons who may be living with the disease. As rightly pointed out by the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, during the celebration of this year’s World TB Day in Accra last Friday, it would be fatal to ignore the danger posed by the disease to our existence as a nation.
The need to find people living with the disease, he said, was very crucial, as the nation was presently detecting about 15,000 TB cases out of the estimated number of 44,000 cases expected to be detected annually, an indication that 29,000 cases were undiagnosed.
We commend health workers, TB volunteers, the Stop TB partnerships in Ghana and all others who have shown commitment to help end TB in Ghana.
We are aware that the National TB Control Programme has developed a TB prevention therapy (TPT) to address the TB epidemic and we urge all whose roles put them in positions to support the programme to do so for its success.
Let us all remember that we can stop TB and join efforts in that direction.