The Ghana Health Service (GHS) through the National Tuberculosis (TB) Control Programme has entreated health workers to set up a one-stop screening point at Out Patients Departments (OPDs) to actively screen for TB and Covid-19 in health facilities.
This forms part of a strategy by the GHS to intensify TB case finding and sputum sample transportation as it moves to detect missing TB cases.
Under this strategy, anybody that goes to a health facility will be asked for a cough and sputum sample for TB testing within the facility or at a testing site.
Director of Public Health, GHS, Dr Franklin Aseidu Bekoe, representing the Director General at the launch of World TB Day in Accra said TB and Covid-19 have similar symptoms and signs including cough, fever and difficulty in breathing.
“All efforts geared towards handling the Covid-19 pandemic should also be focused on TB… We need to embrace persons affected by TB and ensure that they receive the needed care,” he said.
Dr Bekoe said the country has the needed platform to propel her to achieve the targets of 95 per cent reduction in TB related deaths and 90 per cent reduction in new TB cases adding that the focus now is to re-strategize to improve TB case finding amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have a robust well-integrated health system with 132 Gene X-pert machines and 55 digital X-rays in the country to test for TB. Some of these equipment has been calibrated to also start testing for Covid-19,” he added.
Programme Manager for TB Control, Dr Yaw Adusi-Poku, said TB case detection was reduced by 15 per cent dropping from 14,691 in 2019 to 12,443 in 2020.
The fall in the detection rate, he indicated, could be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic where OPD attendance reduced.
“Our target is 44,000 TB cases that include those who will come to the hospital and those who will be found in the community, but we are getting less than a third,” he said. “They will not come to the health facility because of stigmatization.”
He highlighted that preliminary results from a pilot study in the Greater Accra Region on testing for both Covid-19 and TB showed that out of 206 samples tested from January to March 2021, 9 per cent (19) tested positive for TB while two per cent (4) tested positive for Covid-19.
“It is significant to note that one of the cases among this result was a multi-drug resistant case meaning the bacteria were resistant to our two main first-line medication, isoniazide and rifampicin,” he stated.
He, therefore, urged the public to encourage their friends and relatives who are coughing and with other symptoms of chest pain, fever, difficulty in breathing to report to the health facility for free testing and treatment warning that a person with these symptoms could be having TB, Covid-19 or both diseases.
World TB Day
World TB day is marked on March 24 each year to raise public awareness about the devastating effect of TB and to push for the attainment of the UN High-Level Meeting TB targets.
This year’s theme, “The clock is ticking to reach the end TB Target by 2035’ highlights the urgency in achieving the End TB targets of 95 per cent reduction in TB related deaths and 90 per cent reduction in new TB cases.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri