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DOH aims to make tuberculosis a rare disease by 2022

The Department of Health is shifting its anti-tuberculosis campaign to make tuberculosis a rare disease instead of a prevalent illness by 2022.

According to Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, the goal of the Philippine Strategic TB Elimination Plan is to veer towards eliminating – instead of just controlling – tuberculosis.

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“When you say elimination, we mean to detect and treat all tuberculosis cases to make it a rare disease from a very prevalent disease,” Ubial said on Friday afternoon, during the celebration of the World TB Day at the Quezon Institute in Quezon City, where the Philippine Tuberculosis Society is housed.

She said an illness would be considered rare if there is only one case of it for every 10,000 persons.

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At the moment, she said, the incidence of tuberculosis is at 323 per 100,000 persons – or about three per 10,000 persons.

The shift from control to elimination is part of the 2017-to-2022 Philippine Strategic TB Elimination Plan 1, a collaborative effort of the government, the private sector, and other stakeholders.

This means that the DOH would have bring down tuberculosis to a rare disease by 2022, or by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

Ubial noted that tuberculosis incidence had been decreasing in recent years.

According to data from the National TB Program, in 2015, there were 294,907 cases of tuberculosis among patients who had already begun treatment.

The treatment success rate is at an average of 90 percent in recent years.

The DOH now has a new methodology to detect tuberculosis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosus through genetic sequencing using sputum microscopy.

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The genetic sequencing, or genomix technology, is available in 190 facilities all over the country.

Ubial added that though high risk populations for tuberculosis include jail inmates, children, and those suffering from diabetes and affected by the human immunodeficiency virus, the general population could still be equally infected.

The decision of some patients to stop medication is one obstacle to bringing down tuberculosis incidence in the country, according to the Philippine Coalition Against TB (PhilCAT).

Dr. Regina Berba, PhilCAT national chairperson, noted that anti-tuberculosis drugs could be difficult to swallow due to its size and would best taken on an empty stomach in the morning.

“The patient understands that he really needs to complete the six months of medication to eradicate tuberculosis from his system,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s easy for him to get tempted to stop medication once he feels a bit better.”

She added that some patients put off that much-needed visit to the doctor to get diagnosed, prolonging the infectiousness of pulmonary tuberculosis. /atm

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TAGS: Paulyn Ubial, Philippine Strategic TB Elimination Plan, tuberculosis
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