Manila, Philippines – The Department of Health on Sunday warned the public against the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRT), which is harder to cure.
During the commemoration of the World Tuberculosis Day, Health Secretary Francisco Duque described the disease as a “threat to health security” with a projected number of 20,000 people infected in the Philippines.
As part of efforts to address this, the DOH has started to gather more data of patients with MDRT.
“Drug resistant survey or DRS was started in 2018 to determine the magnitude of drug resistance in the Philippines,” Duque said in a keynote speech in a program held in Quezon City Memorial Circle, the resting place of former president Manuel L. Quezon, who died of tuberculosis in 1944.
Tuberculosis remains to be a leading cause of death in the world, according to the DOH.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that 4,500 people worldwide die from the disease everyday.
A 2016 national survey estimated that there are over half a million tuberculosis cases in the country.
“At base sa 2016 National TB Prevalence Survey, tinatayang may 573,000 na bagong TB cases sa ating bansa. Nguni’t nakakalungkot dahil 58 percent lamang dito ang nauulat,” Duque said.
To find the still undiagnosed 42 percent, the health department is uring different groups from public and private sectors in the Philippine Strategic Tuberculosis Elimination Plan or Philstep.
“Time counts, indeed. Mas maraming TB cases na matutuklasan at malulunasan nang maaga, mas mababa ang tsansa ng pagkalat ng TB infection sa ating mga komunidad,” Duque explained.
TB is a communicable disease that can be passed from person to person through air droplets.
Smokers, diabetics, former TB patients, and informal settlers living in urban areas are at a greater risk of getting TB.
Dr. Regina Berba, National Chairperson of the Philippine Coalition Against TB or Philcat, said TB consultations at barangay health centers are free.
Among the symptoms to watch out for are: persistent cough, afternoon fevers, sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, and body weakness.
Close to 300,000 TB patients are enrolled in the health department’s TB-DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course) program, which provide free treatment.
“There’s always that option to be enrolled in the TB-DOTS program. Tapos ngayon pati private hospitals, all other private institutions, there’s a way to get them (patients) enrolled. May referral mechanism. Para sa gan’on eventually they’ll (patients) have access to free TB drugs,” Berba said.