Tuberculosis in the air, govt wants you to get checked


KARACHI – Sindh Health Secretary Hashim Raza Zaidi on Saturday urged the citizens not to ignore the symptoms of tuberculosis (TB) because the ailment is extremely contagious and could be a threat for many healthy individuals.
Addressing the participants of a TB Awareness Walk – organised by the Ojha Institute of Chest Diseases, Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) – Zaidi appealed to the people to avail facilities available at 1,000 treatment centres and 272 diagnostic centres of the Health Department.
“The department provides absolutely free services, and people with symptoms of persistent cough, unexplainable fever and discharge of blood through the mouth must be immediately referred for proper diagnosis,” he said. He said that the people must realise that once a person is diagnosed with the ailment, he or she must be immediately put on treatment, which is available free of charge.
The secretary reiterated that all the medicines and related investigation are provided free to patients visiting these facilities. “It is our joint responsibility to ensure strict compliance to drug therapy, otherwise the patients may develop multi-drug-resistant (MDR)-TB,” he said while addressing the citizens.
These government owned TB control centres have also been turned into training centres for the technical staff associated with other facilities of the Health Department, as well as for many of the private sector institutes, said the health secretary. Zaidi said that the provincial government-sponsored TB Control Programme 2009-2012 is being run against a cost of Rs 213 million.
“The programme covers all parts of the province and efforts are underway to make it easily accessible to the people from remotest parts of the province,” he said. He appreciated the DUHS administration for arranging the walk and the public awareness seminar in connection with the World TB Day to be observed on March 24 around the world. The walk was led by Zaidi and DUHS Vice Chancellor Prof Masood Hameed Khan.
It was largely participated by students and faculty members of the university as well as by the staff of the affiliated medical centres and hospitals. Prominent citizens such as Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Sheikh Muhammad Siddique, All Pakistan Women’s Association Chairwoman Jahan Ara Hai, TB Control Programme for Sindh Director Dr Ismat Ara and other eminent personalities from various walks of life also participated in the event.
In his brief presentation at the public awareness seminar held after the walk at the Ojha Institute, Zaidi said that the ailment is fatal but controllable. Despite all chances to get cured, no less than 68,000 people die of the disease each year, he regretted. The health secretary also expressed his concern that 400,000 new patients are being admitted every year.
“This is in a scenario where every year an untreated patient infects 10 to 15 new people,” he said. On the occasion, the DUHS vice chancellor regretted that negligence, carelessness and lack of awareness about the disease leads exposed patients to a very cruel and complicated form of the ailment, known as MDR-TB. “At the Ojha hospital alone, there are 100 MDR-TB patients on waiting list for the needed treatment, which is difficult and expensive,” said the university’s vice chancellor.
He said that the Dow University, through its own resources, would provide treatment to these patients. Prof Khan said that DUHS also plans to start a web-based training programme for family physicians. He requested philanthropist to generously donate for the cause of curing TB. The Sindh TB Control Programme director said that 50,986 new patients of TB were registered at different government-owned facilities in the province in 2010.
She claimed that 88 percent of them have been successfully treated. Ojha Institute Director Dr Iftikhar Ahmed said that over 4,000 TB patients are being treated at present at its four filter clinics in the city. There are another 3,000 people being treated at their main hospital without being charged a single paisa for their medication and other medical requirements, said Ahmed.