Kitgum district has registered high Tuberculosis-TB cases following the mandatory screening exercise that started in May 2021.
Churchill Opira, the Kitgum District TB Supervisor, says that they have made it compulsory for all patients with productive cough and TB signs, and symptoms, irrespective of the department they are receiving treatment from or how long they have been coughing to test for TB.
Besides compulsory screening, when one tests positive for TB, they are made to list all their family members and people they socialize or drink with, for compulsory testing.
Opira revealed that health workers have also been empowered to collect samples from villagers showing signs and symptoms because of the availability of a GeneXpert machine that was acquired three years ago.
“It was being underutilized because we could get few samples but now we have many samples because everyone whose cough is productive is screened,” Opira said.
Data from the TB and Leprosy department indicates that 206,818 out of the 266,366 people who attended health facilities from April to June this year were screened for TB and 3,228 tested positive. Opira revealed that at least 13 Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis-MDR-TB cases have also been registered since February this year yet there were no cases last year.
MDR –TB is a strain of TB that can only be treated with a combination of four drugs because they are resistant to the two most powerful first-line medications. He attributes the increase inMDR cases to ignorance by the community about TB or stubborn clients who do not adhere to treatment.
TB is the leading cause of death by infectious disease in Uganda. In 2019, the Ministry of Health declared it a public health emergency after it was noticed that it kills 30 Ugandans, daily. Statistics from the Ministry of Health also indicate that about 90,000 Ugandans develop TB every year, including 1,500 multi-drug resistant TB.
Currently, Uganda has a national TB prevalence of about 40 percent. In 2019, the WHO labeled Uganda as one of the 30 countries with a high burden of TB with an estimated incidence rate of 200 per 100,000 people.