The prevalence of tuberculosis in Zanzibar has gone up by 1.4% from 1,074 people in 2020 to 1,090 people last year.
A recent released report on the TB in the islands gives indications of a situation worries in controlling the spread of the infection of the deadly disease.
However, the Deputy Minister of Health, Hassan Khamis Hafidh, said the rate was still lower compared to estimated 1,600 patients per year.
“We know that the awareness is very low in the community, but we need to strengthen the awareness of our people to understand the disease and its symptoms and to know that they can be treated. It is also important to delete that from the brain from some people that TB has relationship with witchcraft,” he said in a press conference.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated Tanzania, including Zanzibar to have an annual TB burden of 142,000 cases, a 13.4% decline compared to the year 2015.
This means that the country was on track to achieve the 2020 milestone of reducing the TB burden by 20% from the baseline of the year 2015.
The positive decline was also noted in the reduction of TB deaths by 27% in 2018 compared to 2015, whereas the 2020 milestone is a 35% reduction in TB deaths.
According to the report, more than 50% of TB cases in Zanzibar are attributed to undernourishment caused by poverty, worsened by the direct and indirect costs related to TB diagnosis and treatment.
Zanzibar Tuberculosis Unit Coordinator, Khamis Abubakar, has appealed to the public to stop stigmatizing people who have been affected with TB.
“When you cure one TB patient, you will prevent infection of 10 to 15 patients because most of the people at risk of being infected will get doses for prevention”, he explained.
However, some health experts said the situation would be worst unless action is taken to check the prevalence.
They cited hotspots for TB infections as worship places, nightspots, workplaces and facilities that host large populations.
“Imaging a scenario where each of those 1,090 got into a different taxi or public transport and each of them coughed. You are potentially going to have another one thousand cases who go home infected.
Since four out of 10 don’t know that they have TB, they will again cough in their homes and you have that multiplier effect,” said Muhammed Sharksy, a lecture at SUZA’s School of Health.
He said TB is posing a huge problem because some patients do not adhere to the treatment schedule.
However, he said the good news is that TB is curable and treatment is freely available at all TB treatment facilities in the country.
“To identify and minimize TB infection among all people, there is an urgent need for individual and collective responsibility and the time is now,” he warned.
He recommends increased funding for TB response plans, expansion of TB screening services, human resources, involvement of the private sector to support TB care, and public awareness.
One of the TB patients told the Journal that the community is not yet well aware about the disease despite efforts to educate them.
“I call upon the Ministry of Health through their department of health promotion to educate the masses about the TB signs and symptoms,” she advised.
The WHO estimates that two billion people (one-third of the world’s population) are infected with the bacteria that cause TB.
In 2021.1.5 million people died from TB while 10 million fell ill from it.
The infection is linked to a cycle of poverty in affected families. communities and even entire countries.
The World Tuberculosis Day, observed on 24 March each year, is designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts to eliminate the disease.