Health experts have expressed concern over the high number of children suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) in Uganda.
Health ministry officials say that at least 15,000 children in Uganda are diagnosed with TB annually.
TB is an infectious disease transmitted through air from a person with TB of the lungs through coughing, laughing, singing and talking.
Dr Stavia Turyahabwe, the assistant commissioner at the National TB and Leprosy Division, said children mainly get infected through their parents or the people who take care of them.
Children in institutions of learning who are suffering from the disease can easily transmit it to others.
Turyahabwe explained that it is difficult to identify the young age groups with TB and diagnosis is also not easy for health workers.
She said if children are unable to produce the sputum — a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract, typically as a result of infection or other diseases — it becomes a challenge.
‘’When we find a child with TB, it is always good to look back and see in the child’s circles and find out if there is an older person who has signs and symptoms of TB or has finished TB treatment a year ago. So we try to search around,’’ said Turyahabwe.
Experts warn that children at risk of developing TB should have access to appropriate TB diagnosis and treatment
Uganda is one of the top 30 countries in the world with a high number of TB cases. About 30 people in Uganda die from TB on a daily basis and more than half of this number are people living with HIV.
On Wednesday, the health ministry held a breakfast meeting with journalists on TB and leprosy, as part of the pre-World TB Day commemoration.
The ministry partnered with USAID and UGANET.
During the meeting, Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general of health services, said that with support from Global Fund, the Government is set to equip general hospitals with digital x-ray machines.
This is aimed at improving the capacity for diagnosis of TB and other health conditions.
“We have a number of general hospitals with outdated x-ray machines. By [the end of] this year, we shall be getting 21 x-ray machines for most of the general hospitals. The rest of the machines will be arriving in the country next year,” said Mwebesa.
Observed annual on March 24, the World TB Day will be marked this Friday.
The national celebrations will be in Butaleja district in eastern Uganda under the theme: ‘TB kills Ugandans every day. Yes, we can end TB’.
TB among men
Health experts are also worried about the rising cases of TB in men, saying that the disease is four times more common among men than in women.
It is said out of 90,000 people in Uganda who become ill with the disease, 70,000 are men, which means TB affects more men than women.
She said more men than women are engaged in risky behaviours such as smoking and alcoholism.
TB is curable if detected early and if a patient adheres to treatment as prescribed by the health workers.
Turyahabwe said the treatment of TB is free of charge in all health facilities but underlined that about 6 to 7 % of the people who begin TB treatment do not complete it.
Dr Mary Nabukenya, the project director of the USAID TB Flagship Project said they were working with the health ministry to develop messages on TB which children and adolescents can understand.