KATHMANDU, March 25: On an average, 120 new cases of tuberculosis are detected in Nepal daily, despite the government's attempts to end the epidemic by 2035.
According to the National Tuberculosis Center (NTC) under the Department of Health Services, more than 15 million Nepalis - almost half the total population of the country - are infected with TB while one-third of the world's population carries the infection.
The infection is described as the presence of TB bacteria in human body in latent form. The disease appears when these bacteria multiply and dominate the immune system.
Every year, 44,000 new cases are transmitted while 5,000 to 7,000 deaths occur due to TB. However, according to the NTC, only 32,056 patients were registered for treatment in 2016.
Out of the total TB cases by the end of 2016, 54 percent are male and 36 percent are female, say NTC officials. “Twenty people die of TB everyday while 25 cases are missed daily in Nepal,” said Dr Sharat Chandra Verma, director at the NTC. “Most of the TB patients in the country are aged between 15 to 49 years.”
Treatment for TB is available at 4,321 Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) centers, 96 urban DOT centers, 14 Multi-drug Resistance (MDR) treatment centers, 81 MDR treatment sub-centers, six DR hostels and one DR home across the country, according to the NTC. Similarly, laboratory facilities are available at 581 microscopy centers, 31 gene-xpert facility with testing machines, two culture labs and DST and two line probe assay (LPA).
The government has planned to provide gene-xpert facility, a very sophisticated and reliable technology to detect the disease, in 45 districts in a year and in all 75 districts by 2021.
Seventy-five percent of TB patients are of lungs, and the remaining 25 per cent belong to gland, stomach, liver, kidney, bone, brain and uterus. “TB can attack any part of the body except for hair and nail,” say TB experts, “A TB patient can infect 10-20 persons.”
The government, which provides free check-up and medicines for all TB patients, has planned to end the epidemic by 2035 by decreasing the death rate by 95 percent and eradicate the disease by 2050 as per the target of the World Health Organization. A new case of TB is treated at the cost of Rs 25,000 while it costs Rs 700,000-800,000 to treat a drug-resistant patient.
“However, treatment is a challenge in Nepal due to the lack of awareness and negligence of the patients to take the medicines regularly,” said Dr Verma, “HIV and hepatitis infections have complicated the treatment, increasing the death rate.” According to him, Nepal has the highest recovery rate of 90 percent while other countries in the world have a recovery rate of 50-60 percent.”
Nine percent of HIV patients are infected with TB while 2.2 percent of TB patients have HIV in Nepal.
The World TB Day was marked on Friday by organizing different functions to raise awareness about TB check up and treatment in Nepal.