TB patients at higher risk for coronavirus, says DOH
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) urged Filipinos undergoing treatment for active tuberculosis (TB) disease to get their free medicines good for one month in light of the enhanced community quarantine being imposed in Luzon and other parts of the country due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the DOH issued a memorandum mandating health workers in government TB clinics to allow patients to take home their one-month supply of anti-TB medications.
Duque noted that so far this year, about 37,500 patients have started their treatment for the disease. In 2019, nearly 330,000 Filipinos were enrolled for TB treatment.
“Those with TB are at higher risk of getting COVID-19. We are rolling out measures for their uninterrupted regimen,” the health chief explained on Tuesday, coinciding the observance of the World TB Day.
“Old age, malnutrition, heavy smoking, weak immune system, being a person living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV), and chronic conditions like diabetes and renal disease increase the risk for people to become vulnerable to both COVID-19 and TB,” he also said.
He added that when a person goes to a hospital for respiratory symptoms and qualifies with the criteria set by the DOH for testing, but tests negative for COVID-19, that patient should be considered presumptive for TB.
To protect health workers and TB patients from COVID-19 infection, Duque said the DOH will enforce a “home-based strategy” wherein a family member will support the patient in taking his medicines.
He added that patients should immediately inform their healthcare providers of any adverse side effects.
According to Duque, preventive measures against TB are also similar to those recommended against the spread of COVID-19, including cough etiquette, hand hygiene, and infection control at home and workplaces.
TB kills more people globally than other infectious diseases like Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), measles, and COVID-19, according to Duque.
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