DOH: 10,000 TB cases in Northern Mindanao ‘not alarming’

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Thursday, March 27, 2014


MORE than 10,000 people were infected with tuberculosis (TB) in Northern Mindanao last year but this should not be a cause for alarm, said a Health department official Wednesday.

Dr. Evelyn Magsayo, Department of Health (DOH) regional TB coordinator, considered the figure not so alarming, although in 2012, it was only around 7,000 cases.

Basing on the ratio that the DOH has been using in its estimates -- 275 cases per 10,000 population -- Magsayo said the region, with an approximate population of five million, should have 13,000 people infected with the disease.

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She said the health agency has to find the remaining 3,000 people who, if not treated, have the tendency to infect others, since most of those with TB are adults.

Adults, she added, can easily infect than the children, whose cases are mostly “extrapulmonary” or TB outside the lungs.

The number of cases included all forms of TB, specifically pulmonary, extrapulmonary, smear positive, smear negative and relapse, Magsayo said.

Although the figure may look staggering, she said the DOH through its Directly Observed Treatment Short (DOTS) course, had a treatment success rate of 88 percent, even surpassing the 85-percent target last year.

For this year, the DOH upped its target for TB treatment success rate at 92 percent.

Magsayo is one of the resource persons of the press conference held Wednesday by the Koalisyong Misamisnon Batok TB (Kombat), a group, organized just January this year, composed of medical practitioners, government workers and private partners.

Multi-sectoral involvement

For his part, Dr. Rico Borromeo, Kombat president, said the fight to minimize or eradicate TB in the country needs the multi-sectoral approach as there areas that are not accessible to the health care system.

“This (TB) is an ancient scourge. This is not only the concern of the health sector but of everyone,” Borromeo said.

He is also advocating for the treatment of children with TB believing that if they are treated at a young age, there is a strong likelihood that they can no longer contract it during adulthood.

Success story

During the press conference, a former TB patient from Initao, Misamis Oriental shared her experience as she struggled her way to recovery after 24 months of treatment.

Requesting that her name won't be mentioned in this article, the former TB patient used to be a teacher of a private school in Lanao del Sur.

She did not know where she contracted the disease, but it started with fits of cough when her four-year-old child died of liver cirrhosis.

Told to go for a check-up, she instead attempted suicide out of depression for her child’s death.

“Kung mamatay man lang gani ko, at least naay kauban ang akong anak (nga namatay),” she assured herself.

When she survived the attempt on her life, she finally decided to see a doctor.

“I don’t want to infect my family, that’s what motivated me,” he said, as she kept telling herself that TB has medicines and that she will be cured.

Her coughing started sometime July of 2009, but she only went to the doctor December of that year.

“I was tested positive (with TB). I (again) went into depression,” she said.

After that, she started the six-month treatment but that didn’t work since she didn’t take her medicines religiously.

When it didn’t take effect, her TB was upgraded to category 2, and this time she had to endure a two-month injection of streptomycin, an antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis.

In April 2011, she finished the category 2 treatment, but her cough persisted.

“I was wondering why I was still having coughing fits and my weight has not increased,” she said.

Relapse

In June of that year, she checked herself in at Initao public hospital where she received a disturbing news: her TB had returned.

“At this time, I was really wondering why my TB had returned since at the time of the category 2, I was already religiously taking my medicines,” she said.

Her TB was confirmed to have reached an MDR (multidrug resistant) stage.

"Then, I decided to go to the German Doctors' hospital since it is the only facility that could treat MDR cases,” she added.

She said was worried for her job since she would be required to stay at the German Doctors' for the duration of her treatment.

While undergoing treatment for the categories 1 and 2, she continued teaching and made sure she couldn't infect her students.

“It was my husband who was my treatment partner as he continued to inspire me to get better. I also didn’t want him infected since he is working in one of the hospitals in the city as wardman,” she said, adding her husband tested negative ever since she contracted TB.

“During my treatment, I didn’t realize you have to take so many medicines. For the first two months, I would throw up the medicines given me. Dili gyud nako makaya ang tambal,” she recalled.

“At that point, I began to question the German Doctors'. Ingon kay ayohon ko nila diha, nganong mas the more man ko nila gipatay?” she added.

But she said the German Doctors staff had been understanding and did their job in making sure that she took her medicines.

To her surprise, she became pregnant three months on her medication at the German Doctors.

“I was supposed to undergo an 18-month treatment, but it got extended to 24 months,” she said.

“I told myself to exert more effort for my recovery since I had my baby on the way,” she added.

When she gave birth, the baby was healthy.

“Last January 24, 2014, I finally graduated. I was cured of TB,” she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 27, 2014.

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