Prevention and Control of Tuberculosis Guidelines Launched in Commemoration of World TB Day

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 24, 2016 (SKNIS): Dr. Retna Walwyn-Browne, Acting Director of Community Based Health Services, launched the guidelines for the prevention and control of tuberculosis (TB) on March 22, two days shy of World TB Day which is commemorated internationally today (March 24).

Dr. Walwyn-Browne noted that the day is being acknowledged under the theme “Unite to end TB,” and that although the illness is not prevalent in the Federation, vigilance must be maintained.

“For us here in St. Kitts and Nevis … the incidence of TB is quite low and we are considered a low burden territory,” Dr. Walywn-Browne said, noting that Elynis Browne, Coordinator of Community Based Nursing Services, had reported that there was a federal average of two cases per year. “But this is not a point for us to rest on our laurels. We have to be vigilant, we have to maintain our surveillance and we have to keep those figures down. It is still a threat. Persons living with HIV or persons who are immune compromised, they are at a greater risk of contracting TB.”

The Acting Director of Community Based Health Services said that the figures were similar in the territories in close proximity to the Federation.

“For us in the region, in the Americas and the Caribbean our TB incidence is actually very small and in 2013 we had the smallest incidence,” Dr. Walwyn-Browne said. “So TB in the region is not much of a problem but we still have to be vigilant.”

It was noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had recorded progress in terms of the elimination of the illness since the member-states of the United Nations (UN) countries adopted agreements toward attaining Millennium Development Goals. As such, in 2015, the target date for the goals, WHO did a reevaluation and found that TB prevalence was 42 percent lower than it was in 1990 and the TB death rate was 47 percent lower than in 1990. The work continues with the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 and the End TB Strategy that was introduced in 2014.

Dr. Walwyn-Browne noted that internationally TB is still very much a threat to life.

“Tuberculosis is still a very major public health issue across the world,” she said. “There are about 9.6 million people who become ill with TB and 1.5 million died. Currently it’s the top infectious disease that causes mortality alongside HIV and it’s one of the leading causes of death in the HIV positive population and in 2015 – one in three HIV deaths were due to TB.”

It was related that internationally, 95 percent of TB deaths occur in low and middle income countries and out of these, there are 22 countries that are high burden countries. TB is found to be a public health or social issue, so most of the affected communities are communities affected by poor living conditions and poor public health situations.

One identified threat to the Federation, as well as the Caribbean and the Americas is that due to globalization and global travel there is a high risk of the importation of the illness. It was reported by Nurse Browne that of the seven TB cases in St. Kitts and Nevis last year, four were imported.

It was revealed that the local Ministry of Health does epidemiological surveillance, offers TB diagnosis and contact tracing, along with treatment and management at all health facilities. This is done through work at the Joseph N. France (JNF) General Hospital Laboratory which works closely with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

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