INTRODUCTION

World TB Day is celebrated on 24th of March each year. This day is used to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis and preventive measures to end the global tuberculosis. Today the Ghana College of Pharmacists is adding its voice to the fight against TB.

The theme of World TB Day 2021 is “The clock is ticking” which conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments made by global leaders to end TB. This is especially crucial in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic that has put End TB progress at risk as it has taken increasing medical resources and attention away from providing necessary life-saving diagnosis, medicine and care to people suffering from TB.

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. People with TB disease of the lungs or throat may spread TB germs to others through the air when they speak, cough, sneeze, laugh, or sing. TB is NOT spread by sharing silverware or cups, or sharing saliva when kissing someone.

 

PREVALENCE

Nearly 4,000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people worldwide fall ill with this preventable and curable disease each day. The last TB prevalence survey in Ghana identified the country to be burdened by TB more than had been previously anticipated. The survey estimated that over 76,000 Ghanaians were afflicted with TB with more than 9,700 people dying of the disease each year. In 2019, a total of 15,100 TB cases were diagnosed/notified with 84% treatment success rate as an outcome.

 

SYMPTOMS

Tuberculosis is curable and preventable but is still one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. Its symptoms include:

  • Cough that lasts two or more weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

WHEN TO GET TESTED

Effective treatment for all types of TB is available in Ghana and TB tests and medicines are free for everyone. Anyone diagnosed with TB is given effective treatment and this reduces the risks of infecting others close to them. Therefore, get tested for TB if,

  • You think you might have TB disease
  • You’ve spent time with a person known or suspected to have TB
  • You have HIV infection or a condition that suppresses your immunity and puts you at high risk
  • You think you might have TB
  • You’re from a country where TB is very common
  • When you have any of the above symptoms
  • You inject drugs or live in areas where TB is known to be very common

 

PREVENTION

For those infected/diagnosed with TB, help prevent others from getting infected with TB by,

  • Covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough, sneeze or laugh. Discard used tissues in a plastic bag, then seal and throw it away.
  • Not coughing or sneezing into your hands. When you mistakenly do, wash your hands immediately with soap and running water or sanitize your hands with alcohol rub.
  • Not spitting around because the bacteria are very likely to be in your sputum and will spread when the wind blows over you spat which will have your sputum.
  • Ensuring that your room is well ventilated.
  • Completing your entire treatment course of medication. When you stop treatment early or skip doses, TB bacteria have a chance to develop mutations that allow them to survive the most potent TB drugs. The resulting drug-resistant strains are much more deadly and difficult to treat.

To prevent those not infected with TB from getting infected with TB,

  • Ensure that your room is properly ventilated.
  • Ensure that every newborn is given the TB vaccination (Bacilli Chalmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine) within the first week to 4 weeks of life to prevent severe tuberculosis.
  • All persons living with HIV (PLWHIV) should receive Preventive TB Therapy (PTT) e.g. Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT) from their care points to protect them from getting infected with TB
  • Avoid close contact with TB patients.
  • Sleep in a room far away from family members who have active TB.

 

LATENT TB

Not everyone infected with TB germs gets sick. People who are infected, but are not sick, have what is called latent TB infection. People with latent TB infection do not get sick because the germs lie dormant in their body. However, these people may develop TB disease in the future. To prevent developing TB disease, people with latent TB infection can take medicine.

 

ROLE OF PHARMACISTS

Pharmacists play a pivotal role in the management of patients with TB by providing their expertise within an interdisciplinary team approach to patient care. They educate patients and clinicians about the expected therapy outcomes and the side effects as well as drug interactions associated with antituberculous agents. They assess the appropriateness, efficacy, and safety of antituberculous therapy by monitoring patients and ensuring medication adherence.

As the world observes World Tuberculosis Day, the College emphasizes the role of health workers in general and specialist pharmacists in particular in ending TB.  This is further buttressed by studies that have shown better outcomes and substantially improved rates of treatment completion when pharmacists are directly involved in the management of TB. We entreat all pharmacists involved in TB care to ensure that anti-TB medications are dispensed alongside appropriate advice and every TB patient on treatment are monitored to promote adherence and prevent development of multi-drug resistance. Pharmacists are also fighting against TB by increasing the awareness of TB among lay people and patients especially in the communities, where their services are the first point of call and linking people with TB symptoms to healthcare facilities for early diagnosis and treatment initiation.

 

WHAT TO DO

If you have any of the TB symptoms, talk to your Pharmacist. It is not every cough that is treated with cough syrup and it is not every cough that is a sign of COVID-19 infection. Your pharmacist will link you to facilities where you can get tested for free. TB is treated and the usual duration of treatment is 6months or more. Remember, ‘the Clock is ticking’ let us end TB now.

CONCLUSION

TB is curable! Get tested and treated! The Clock is Ticking!