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‘TB, AIDS cause world’s highest number of deaths’

Doctors of the Sri Lanka College of Pulmonologists at the press conference yesterday. Picture by Siripala Halwala

Dr. D. Medagedara said at a press briefing held in Colombo yesterday that AIDS and TB are communicable diseases that cause the largest number of deaths in the world and that a large number of people in the developing countries die of Tuberculosis (TB) every year although it is curable if treatment are taken properly.

The World TB Day is observed every year on March 24 to create awareness and support world-wide efforts to eliminate TB. The annual event commemorates the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes TB. This year’s World TB Day theme is “Leaders for a TB free world you can make History. End TB”. The day is an occasion to mobilise political and social commitment for further progress towards eliminating TB as a public health burden.

TB can acquire by breathing contaminated air droplets coughed by a nearby person who has active tuberculosis. The most common term of the Pulmonary TB, which affects the lungs, and brain. In some cases, the bacteria can also attack the lymphatic system, nervous system, joints and bones. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is present worldwide and typically spreads in cramped, overcrowded conditions. Long-term travellers, those with a weakened immune system or visiting friends and relatives in areas where Tuberculosis is endemic are at risk. Humanitarian and healthcare personnel working in communities with active TB are also at increased risk. Persons with active TB should not travel.

Dr. Medagedara said that the Persons with active TB have symptoms which include excessive coughing (sometimes with blood), chest pain, general weakness, lack of appetite, weight loss, swollen lymph glands, fever, chills, and night sweats.

Dr.N. Dissanayaka said the majority of persons with the illness (90 to 95 percent) have latent TB infection (LTBI) and do not exhibit any symptoms. The bacteria can remain inactive for many years and the chance of developing active TB diminishes over time.

TB prevention consists of several main parts. The first part of TB prevention is to stop the transmission of TB from one adult to another. This is done through firstly, identifying people with active TB, and then curing them through the provision of drug treatment. With proper TB treatment someone with TB will very quickly not be infectious and so can no longer spread the disease to other. Dr. C. Kulathunga added. There were more than 9,000 Tuberculosis patients in Sri Lanka. The World Tuberculosis Day was marked this year on Saturday, March 24. The latest value for Incidence of tuberculosis (per 100,000 people) in Sri Lanka was 65 as of 2016. At present there are 26 districts chest clinics. In patient facilities are provided through national hospitals for respiratory diseases and chest wards in the hospitals, diagnostic services are carried out through the national TB reference laboratories , regional culture laboratories district chest clinics and microscopy centers.

“All the districts chest clinics are under the control of a district TB control officer and consultant respiratory physicians. Anyone having cough for more than two weeks can straight away go to a clinic without a reference. All investigations and treatments are provided free of charge. Government funds are available for the patients. The Welisara Hospital has separate wards for patients with Multi Drug Resident with Tuberculosis MDR-TB,” Dr.B. Samarasekara said.