The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said at least 447,696 actual tuberculosis cases in the country were reported in 2022.
“The actual cases that had been detected in 2022, and this is just partial, we had a total of 447,696 detected or notified through our reporting system noong 2022. And as I have said, this is partial. Baka may madagdag pa (there could be more),” DOH officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the launching of the Philippine Acceleration Action Plan for Tuberculosis.
Vergeire said the COVID-19 situation had affected other health programs including the department’s tuberculosis program.
“The COVID-19 situation limited the access to our people so in effect we are seeing that the number of tuberculosis cases has furthered increase because of this limitation because more people were not able to access services therefore were not treated and therefore were still spreading the disease day by day until they were able to again access the services and get treated,” Vergeire said.
According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs but also spread to different organs of the body that is curable and preventable.
The illness can be spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung tuberculosis cough, sneeze, or spit, they propel the tuberculosis germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of the bacteria to become infected, it added.
“Ang isang tao, pag may tuberculosis ka, maaari kang makapanghawa ng 10 hanggang 20 tao sa isang bahing mo kapag mataas talaga ang baccilli doon sa loob ng katawan mo. Kapag ikaw naggamot in that two weeks of intensive (treatment)... yung risk mo makapanghawa ay mababang mababa na. Kaya meron tayong intensive treatment for the first two weeks,” she added.
(If one person has tuberculosis, you can infect 10 to 20 people especially when the bacilli inside your body is high. When you take the two-week intensive treatment... your risk of getting infected is very low, so we have intensive treatment for the first two weeks.)
The DOH earlier said around 700,000 Filipinos nationwide develop tuberculosis every year.
Dr. Ronald Allan Fabella, Global Fund Advisor of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said at least 470,000 Filipinos availed of tuberculosis prevention services in 2022.
Some of the symptoms a person manifests when he/she develops active tuberculosis are cough, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.
In her speech, Vergeire said the Philippines is also the fourth largest contributor of tuberculosis incident cases at 7% of the global total.
“For every 100,000 Filipinos, an estimated 650 individuals were infected with tuberculosis in 2021 – a huge difference from the 554 per 100,000 from the year prior,” she said.
“Everyday, around 70 Filipinos die from tuberculosis, a completely curable disease with 1.6 million recorded deaths in 2021. It is therefore no surprise that we are among the only eight countries that account for two-thirds of the estimated global cases,” she added.
The DOH official said the Philippine Acceleration Action Plan for TB (PAAP-TB) was co-developed with various sectors and incorporates an intersectoral lens to analyze and address the prevailing risk factors of tuberculosis.
She said it is also grounded on the existing plans and budgets of different agencies to ensure its sustainable implementation.
“(The) PAAP-TB shall serve as the country’s long term plan from 2022-2035. This enables us to provide continuous investment for tuberculosis, while conducting periodic recalibration of specific milestones and plans,” she added.
She said the Health Department aims to establish lung specialty centers across all regions of the country. From having only the Lung Center of the Philippines, she said they aim to establish 17 lung specialty centers by 2025.
“Malaking hamon pa ang kinakaharap natin upang makamit ang isang tuberculosis-free Philippines. Hindi ito hamon para sa isang sektor lamang; ito ay hamon sa ating lahat na magtulung-tulungan,” she added.
(We still face great challenges to achieve a tuberculosis-free Philippines. This is not a challenge for just one sector; it is a challenge to all of us to work together.). — DVM/BAP, GMA Integrated News