362 cases of TB

The 'Breathe Well' Mobile Clinic which offers free TB screening and treatment services to rural and maritime communities.Picture: Supplied

The 'Breathe Well' Mobile Clinic which offers free TB screening and treatment services to rural and maritime communities.Picture: Supplied

THE national TB program office says 362 cases of tuberculosis (TB) were recorded in the country last year.

In a statement, it said the WHO put Fiji’s incidence at 51 cases per 100,000 population — a decrease from 58 cases in 2016.

“Sixty per cent of cases were reported from the Central and Eastern divisions, 30 per cent from the Western and 10 per cent from the Northern. Males represented 54 per cent of cases,” the statement read.

It says TB is an infectious disease caused by a bug called mycobacterium tuberculosis, and causes a chronic disease which could affect any organ, usually affecting the lungs most.

“TB is curable with prompt diagnosis and upon completion of the prescribed treatment and taking daily medications for six to 24 months.

“Important risk factors for contracting the disease include; close proximity to infectious cases of TB. It is easily spread in poorly ventilated areas, smokers can take the bacteria directly into their lungs as some of their airway defences are damaged,” the statement read.

“Once infected, a person is still well. However, the bacteria is in their body. Any person with a TB infection is said to have a latent TB infection (LTBI).”

It said a person with LTBI had a 10 per cent lifetime risk of developing TB disease.

“This risk is much higher if a person’s immune system has become weak, for example because of old age, in children less than two or five (years), and in people living with HIV,” he said.

“Signs and symptoms of TB usually will include suffering from what is called constitutional symptoms; such as a prolonged fever, weight loss, night sweats, poor appetite and increasing generalised weakness.

“Other symptoms will depend on the site of the disease. So for TB in the lungs, they will also experience a cough for more than two weeks, may cough up blood, have shortness of breath and chest pain upon breathing or coughing.”

TB tests in public hospitals are free and treatment includes a minimum of six months, nine to 12 months for TB of the brain or bone and joints, and up to two years for drug resistant forms of TB.

Meanwhile, World TB Day will be celebrated on March 24.

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