Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Indonesia committed to simultaneously handling TB and COVID-19 by Fardah

Jakarta, July 22, 2020 (ANTARA) - Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic nation, with over 17 thousand islands and a population of some 267 million, is currently not only battling COVID-19 but also other ailments, including dengue fever and tuberculosis (TB).

Indonesia is ranked third for the incidence of TB globally. Some 165 thousand Indonesians succumbed to tuberculosis in 2017 and some 98 thousand people in 2018.

"I need to remind you that Indonesia is listed as the world's third-largest TB-burdened nations in terms of the number of sufferers after India and China," the head of state pointed out while chairing a limited cabinet meeting on the Acceleration of Tuberculosis Elimination at the Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, on July 21, 2020.

Furthermore, the high number of TB cases in the country are observed among people of the productive age group of between 15 and 55 years.

The president has reminded his ranks of Indonesia’s target to become free of tuberculosis by 2030.

In the path to achieving the target, the government remains committed to fighting TB in an integrated manner by involving several ministries and relevant institutions.

Houses that are not properly ventilated and fail to receive adequate sunlight, especially those in an overpopulated area, are among the factors triggering people-to-people transmission. Hence, not only the Health Ministry but also the Social Affairs Ministry and Public Works and Public Housing Ministry must partake in this TB prevention endeavor. To this end, the government will ensure the availability of medications for the treatment of TB.

The government is also intensifying the tracking of TB patients since out of 845 thousand people infected with this disease, only 562 thousand have been identified, thereby translating to the fact that some 33 percent are not registered.

Hence, the president threw his weight behind the simultaneous handling of TB and COVID-19.

"We already had a model for COVID-19 (handling), notably, by aggressively tracing those infected. We might use this COVID-19 (handling model) to also trace (those suffering from) tuberculosis," he explained.

TB is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, and it most often affects the lungs. TB is spread through air when people suffering from lung TB cough, sneeze, or spit. A person can contract TB by merely inhaling a few germs.

Both the TB infection and disease are curable through the administration of antibiotics. An estimated 58 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment during the period between 2000 and 2018

According to WHO’s data, 10 million people fall ill with TB annually across the world. In 2018, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with TB worldwide: 5.7 million men, 3.2 million women, and 1.1 million children.

In spite of being a preventable and curable disease, 1.5 million people die from TB each year globally – making it the world’s top infectious killer. TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, above HIV/AIDS. TB is the leading cause of death among people with HIV and also a major contributor to antimicrobial resistance.

Most people, who fall ill with TB, live in low- and middle-income countries, but TB is found all over the world. About half of all people with TB can be found in eight countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Africa.

Earlier, the Health Ministry’s Director for Communicable Disease Prevention and Control, Dr Wiendra Waworuntu, stated that despite the medicine for TB being available at various healthcare centers, mortality rate due to the disease remains high in Indonesia, at 13 people per hour.

“Some 10 thousand public health centers (Puskesmas) and hospitals are ready with the medicine to cure TB," she pointed out.

Waworuntu attributed the high mortality rate in the country to the presence of drug-resistant TB. The ministry has projected some 24 thousand drug-resistant TB cases and 21 thousand TB-HIV coinfection cases.

"They died not due to HIV but tuberculosis," she remarked.

In fact, the WHO has designated Indonesia as a high-burden nation for TB, Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB), and TB/HIV.

During the 2020 commemoration of World TB Day, March 24, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, noted in a news release that COVID-19 highlights just how vulnerable people, with lung diseases and weakened immune systems, can be.

“The world remains committed to ending TB by 2030 and improving prevention is the key to making this happen,” Ghebreyesus stated.

As the world comes together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to ensure that essential health services and operations are continued to protect the lives of people with TB and other diseases or health conditions.

Health services, including the national program to combat TB, should be actively engaged in ensuring an effective and rapid response to COVID-19 while ensuring that TB services are maintained.

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