DOH raises alert on rise in tuberculosis cases: It's 'higher than in 2022' | Inquirer News

DOH raises alert on rise in tuberculosis cases: It’s ‘higher than in 2022’

/ 03:46 PM March 14, 2024

Fight against TB persists in PH as disease remains a threat

INQUIRER file photos and stock image

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa on Thursday sounded the alarm on the rise of tuberculosis (TB) cases across the country.

In a press conference in Pasay city with the global advocacy group Stop TB Partnership, Herbosa told reporters that while Filipinos were trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, TB cases have been ballooning.


“As of December 31, 2023, our new cases numbered 612,534. So, that’s about 549 cases per (a) hundred thousand population. That’s higher than in 2022,” the health secretary stressed.


READ: Fight against TB persists in PH as disease remains a threat 

In 2022, Herbosa recalled, only 439 TB cases per 100,000 people were logged in the Philippines.

As for the number of deaths due to the airborne disease, the health secretary explained that he could only give data based on the Information Technology system of their TB register.

The data indicates that the TB patients are dead, but their death might not actually be caused by the disease.

“Ten thousand cases were identified as ‘outcome: died,’ but that doesn’t mean they died [from TB],” he said.

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) released in 2022 shows the Philippines is one of the countries with the most reduced cases of TB in the years 2020 and 2021, in comparison to 2019.


But in WHO’s Global TB Report 2023, the country is listed as one of the eight countries that contributed to two-thirds of the total TB cases around the globe in 2022, marking a reversal of the trend.

It also said cases of the airborne disease in the Philippines contributed to 7 percent of the global total, a few tiers behind India, which topped the list at 27 percent.

READ: DOH to shorten TB treatment by 3rd quarter of 2023 

Petri dish

As to what caused the increase in the incidence of TB cases in the country, Herbosa said the lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have been the reason.

“It’s not a scientific study but I asked around. In 2020, we had COVID, right? We imposed [a] quarantine. There was no work. Everybody was at home. Filipino households, the low-income households, have four family [members] in one household,” the health secretary initially said.

“The people with TB were transmitting. The people who are not in school and not at work are living in a small household and it’s airborne. Our measures for COVID worked […] but the return is actually the triple in the increase in TB,” he noted.

The health secretary said family members may have caught the disease from each other during the lockdown.

He likewise mentioned that TB patients who were undergoing treatment at TB DOTS (directly-observed treatment, short-course) centers were not able to complete their regimen due to the sudden lockdown.

Reducing the number

Herbosa admitted that solving the cases of TB in the country is plagued with problems involving distance and accessibility for persons living in far-flung areas.

READ: PSAC: 5 local manufacturers to produce anti-tuberculosis meds 

To address this, the Department of Health (DOH) said it is coordinating with various government agencies, including those from the private sector, such as specialists and experts on airborne diseases.

“We’re talking to labor, social welfare, (and) education to be able to implement and reach the target. I think that we are able to do these three things – communication, coordination, and collaboration. I think we can end TB and reach our target” he said.

During the press conference, Herbosa also mentioned that innovation in detecting the disease is important in solving the issue.

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These innovations include the use of molecular testing tools, among others.

TAGS: Diseases, DoH, tuberculosis

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