Cape Town – The Western Cape government hopes its response to the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic will be as nimble and responsive as its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Alan Winde was speaking on Wednesday during a visit to the Childhood Infectious Disease Center, while learning more about children infected with tuberculosis.
Winde was given a tour of the facility, at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, with Professor Brian Eley; Professor Heather Zar, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health; and the hospital’s acting director general, Dr Anita Parbhoo.
“While most cases of childhood tuberculosis in the western metropolitan area are diagnosed and treated in community clinics, some children require hospital care due to the severity of their illness and other underlying conditions. .
“In 2020 alone, 217 children were diagnosed with TB at RCWMCH, an average of 18 cases per month,” Winde said.
“Upon discharge from hospital, most children are referred to their local TB clinics for ongoing TB treatment. Some children with resistant tuberculosis or other complex forms of tuberculosis who require ongoing specialist care but cannot be treated at home, visit the RCWMCH specialist tuberculosis clinic on an outpatient basis, in collaboration with a pediatrician from the Brooklyn Chest Hospital.
The prime minister said it was important for parents to look for signs of a possible TB infection so that treatment can be provided as quickly as possible.
Zar said fewer patients were admitted to the center last year.
“During strict containment our admissions decreased and what we saw were children with more serious illness. The parents were therefore obviously delayed in going to the hospital because they were afraid to go to the hospital.
“Fewer cases of pneumonia due to influenza have been noted, presumably due to preventive measures for Covid-19 such as wearing a mask and physical distancing. Wearing a mask could potentially prevent the transmission of TB, however, masks are not worn indoors at home, where infections could be transmitted.
“Some of the symptoms of TB to watch out for in children are cough that lasts for more than four weeks, poor weight gain or malnutrition, fatigue and lethargy, and loss of appetite,” Zar said.
WIndia added, “If children are exhibiting these symptoms, parents are urged to take them to the nearest clinic where they will have a free tuberculosis test and treatment will be provided. If additional specialist care is required, as appropriate, our hospital network is also ready to help. “
Winde said lessons learned from the Covid-19 response were being used to see how best to tackle the other “serious epidemic” – tuberculosis.
“We have set ourselves a task now: how to eradicate tuberculosis? We have funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, so I asked the team to leave and come back with a plan on what we need to do. Thinking about how we have dealt with Covid-19, let’s think similarly about the fight against tuberculosis. “