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The regional directorate of the Ghana Health Service has expressed serious concerns about the alarming cases of tuberculosis (TB) and other cases of respiratory tract infections in the Western Region, particularly in the mining areas.

According to the statistics presented by the Western Regional TB Co-ordinator, Mr Joseph Newton, there had been a sharp rise in the disease, which calls for immediate intervention to control it.

Failure to curb the development will mean that the country will not achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) six that seeks to reduce the mortality rate due to tuberculosis (TB) by 50 per cent by 2015.

Briefing the media in Takoradi, Mr Newton said a total of 1,067 cases of the disease were recorded in 2012. He said as of the end of December 2013, the number had increased to 1,742 reported cases, representing an increase of 63 per cent.

The Sekondi/Takoradi metropolis and Prestea Huni-Valley District, he said, recorded the highest number of TB cases of 227 and 226 respectively. He attributed the rise to an increase in population, as well as the widespread illegal mining activities in the Prestea area especially.

Population surge & mining

The regional co-ordinator explained that the increase in population in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis accounted for the growth of the disease in the area. He said in other districts, however, the growth in numbers could be attributed to mining activities which had negative health implications on the people.

Mr Newton said almost all the districts that were involved in both illegal small and large-scale mining recorded more than 100 cases each in the year under review.

Mitigation measures

He said the regional directorate was doing everything possible to ensure that the Ghana Health Service (GHS) achieved the MDG goal six and reduce the reported cases as expected.

He said in order to achieve that, several strategies, including engaging communities in measures to halt the advancement of the disease, were being considered in order to reach out to more Ghanaians who might have unknowingly contracted the disease and were spreading it.

The regional co-ordinator said the GHS was also engaging with various interest groups, including the media, civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to assist in community outreach programmes on the disease and its related issues.

Mr Newton said the GHS had in place a project called the TB Reach Project (TBRP), which was using high sensitive detection devices to carry out tuberculosis diagnosis in various deprived communities that did not have health facilities.

Multi drug resistance and stigmatisation

The TB co-ordinator said though treatment and curing of TB had become easier and free of charge, many patients did not follow their treatment procedures.

“After going through treatment for about two months and realising they are now fit, the patients stop taking the drugs even though the bacteria continue to exist in the patient.

“When the disease resurfaces, patients normally develop new strains that are multi-drug resistant and so we have to carry out further diagnosis to determine which high performing drugs should be administered,” he said.

Such behaviours, he said, resulted in several unsuccessful treatment of TB as patients developed resistance to the drugs and possibly increased transmission of the disease to new people.

Mr Newton said the GHS was doing everything to control the disease, as well as battle social beliefs and practices that stigmatised people with TB.
Source: Daily Graphic

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