Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
BULAWAYO has recorded a decrease in new tuberculosis and drug resistant TB cases over the past year owing to travel restrictions necessitated by Covid-19.
A majority of new cases emanate from returning residents who stay or work in neighbouring South Africa, which has the highest TB prevalence in the world.
Locals based in South Africa often delay getting screened and usually travel back home for treatment when it is too late.
Statistics from Bulawayo’s health services department show that in 2020, new cases ranged from 1 500-2 000.
Last year, about 1 200 cases were reported.
Drug resistant TB cases have also been on the downward trend as only 50 cases were recorded last year compared to over 500 that are recorded annually.
About 86 percent of TB patients completed their treatment successfully in Bulawayo, a major achievement by the city in the first quarter of the year.
While TB treatment and care is free in Zimbabwe, it remains one of the biggest killer diseases, especially among people living with HIV. Each day, close to 28 000 people fall ill to TB and nearly 4 000 people lose their lives to this preventable and curable disease.
TB treatment can take anything from nine up to 12 months and sometimes the affected are tempted to default or delay treatment which often leads to deaths.
In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that 29 000 people fell ill from TB in 2020 and about 6 300 of these succumbed to the disease.
Speaking after a donation from the National Aids Council, Bulawayo health services director Dr Edwin Sibanda said Covid-19 restrictions had contributed to the decrease in recorded cases in the city.
“In 2021 we had 1 000-1 200 cases recorded. We have more of our people with TB in South Africa and those who live, work or visit SA have a higher chance of contracting TB,” said Dr Sibanda.
“Sadly, most of our people delay screening and end up dying.
In the past two years, because of travel restrictions our cases dropped from the 1 500-2 000 range. Another sad thing is that 15 percent of the people die of TB which is higher than the expected 5 percent.”
Handing over TB guidelines and literature on treatment and detection, provincial NAC manager Mrs Sinatra Nyathi said it was important to address TB as part of ending HIV in 2030.
Mrs Nyathi said TB and HIV print material donated to BCC will help communities make informed decisions.
“NAC continues to coordinate the response to HIV and Aids and we need to close the tap of the new infections so that we end Aids by 2030.
The city of Bulawayo has signed the fast Track Initiative that was started in 2014 in Paris.
“We will make sure we win the battle and ensure that 95 of our people in Bulawayo know their status.
This donation will help our communities with knowledge on TB as our major opportunistic infection.
We have more than 2000 copies of treatment guidelines, posters circulated in our schools and health centres so that as Bulawayo we are well informed,” said Mrs Nyathi. –@thamamoe