The National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTCP) has urged patients to health facilities, across the country, to patronise the modern devices for rapidly diagnosing TB so that those with the disease can receive early life-saving treatment.
A total of 16,000 persons, in 2016, died in Ghana, from the infectious disease, caused by the Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Bacteria, which attacks mainly the lungs. It could also affect any part of the body.
Dr Nii Nortey Hanson-Nortey, the Deputy Programme Manager of NTCP, told editors at a programme, in Accra that, in that year, more than 65 per cent of the suspected TB cases went missing as only 14,665 of the estimated 43, 680 cases in the general population were diagnosed.
Out of the 29,015 missing cases, 1,510 were children. Additionally, only 7,162 of the estimated 10,000 TB/HIV cases were diagnosed; while 763 of the drug resistant cases were missed.
Dr Hanson-Nortey attributed the situation to the poor level of awareness on the disease, the stigmatisation of infected persons, myths and misconceptions about the disease, among others.
As part of the efforts to remedy the situation, the NTCP urged the media to help create greater awareness to stimulate public interest in the disease and mobilise local resources to fund the Programme.
The media are also to help encourage mass voluntary testing to diagnose all cases and the extension of tender loving care to patients, who are now treated in their communities for the social benefits to be realised.
Under a 12-year-long Public-Private-Partnership project, ‘Accelerating Tuberculosis Case Detection in Ghana’, the country aims at reducing the TB burden from 156 per 100,000 persons to levels below 50 per every 100,000.
Health facilities have, therefore, been equipped with the State-of-the Art tele-x-ray equipment and geneXperts diagnosis technology, which can detect the presence of the smallest of the bacteria in a very short time.
The X-ray device comes with a specialised software Computer Aided Diagnostic for TB, which screens all TB lesions to help make a quicker diagnosis at facilities where there are no radiologists.
Giving education on the disease, Dr Hanson-Nortey explained that a person who had TB would feel sick, have a positive sputum test, have a bad X-ray and a positive skin test.
Such persons, he said, could spread the bacteria to those they engaged in close contacts for long hours through coughing, sneezing, shouting, talking and singing.
However, there were many people globally (one in every three persons) with latent TB infection because they had breathed in the bacteria; but these could not spread it, he said.
Persons with weakened immune systems such as Persons Living with HIV, as well as children, the elderly and diabetics are more susceptible to the disease.
Tuberculosis, he said, could not be spread through the sharing of drinking glasses, spoons, forks, bathrooms, beddings or the handling of clothes, towels, rubbish or food.
Globally, TB ranked alongside HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of death, in 2016.
During the year, more than 2.4 billion had been infected with the disease, while 9.6 million new cases were reported. Out of the new cases, 1.2 million had HIV.
Additionally, one million of the new cases were children, while 1.5 million people died from the disease.
Dr Hanson-Nortey said 3.5 million people suspected to have the disease were, however, not diagnosed. It takes about six months to cure a patient put on a therapy.
Ghana’s TB Ambassador, Ehunabobrim Prah Agyensaim VI, expressed concern about the high rate of ignorance on TB, the stigmatisation and molestation of patients in their communities.
He appealed to the media to help educate communities to understand that people with the disease could be cured if they received prompt medical attention and were not threatened to go into hiding, which would result in its spread.
Nana Prah Agyensaim, who is the Paramount Chief of Assin Owirenkyi Traditional Areas said he was engaging the National House of Chiefs to be help deal with the issue and asked for more people to enrol as TB Ambassadors.