TB Cases On The Decline

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TB Control Officer, Dr. Manohar Singh, delivering his presentation at the seminar at Hilton Barbados. (Image:??C. Pitt/BGIS)????

The number of Tuberculosis (TB) cases in Barbados has been on the decline over the last two years.

This was revealed today by Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, as she addressed the start of a seminar, at Hilton Barbados, to mark "World TB Day – March 24. Its key aim was to update senior managers and supervisors in the health sector on the status of TB.

Dr. St. John explained: "In 2007, there were eight new reported cases, 30 per cent of which also had HIV. Of these new cases, five were male and three female.

"The following year saw a decrease in the number of new cases to three, of which one was male and two female. Last year, 2009, only two new cases were both of which were male."

While stating that throughout the world many efforts had been implemented to prevent and control TB, as it was a major public health concern, she said: "Numerous research reports suggest that a third of the world’s population is currently infected with TB."

According to the senior health official, the Caribbean, like the rest of the world had experienced a resurgence of TB, especially with respect to HIV as a co-infection.

"The likely impact is that TB may considerably shorten the lifespan of persons infected with HIV, where the doubly compromised immune system may become more susceptible to chronic infections," Dr. St. John warned.

As she gave reasons for the decline here, the CMO pointed out that Barbados had in place a strong TB Control Programme, headed by TB Control Officer, Dr. Manohar Singh, and there had been ongoing sensitisation programmes since 2006. Additionally, she noted that workshops sponsored by the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) focused on developing the guidelines and treatment modalities for TB/HIV Co-infection, over a two-year period and staff had also benefited from regional programme and training activities.

Dr. St. John also disclosed that in 2007, the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre and the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Unit collaborated as joint project leads in a USAID‐sponsored programme. "It was aimed at building capacity within countries to improve the prevention and control of HIV and tuberculosis in the Caribbean," she declared.

It was further noted that to support the island’s TB programme the Laboratory at the Winston Scott Polyclinic, in Jemmotts Lane, had been upgraded to facilitate molecular technology testing, which will allow for the rapid identification of the TB Mycobacterium, a reduction in time from three months to 48 hours.

"The state-of-the art technology will be shared with our Caribbean neighbours and has obvious potential to become a Centre of Excellence for diagnosis of TB," Dr. St. John revealed.

World TB Day is commemorated March 24, each year and is designated as an occasion for persons around the world to heighten awareness about the international threat presented by TB.

jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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