WINDHOEK, 05 NOV (NAMPA) -
The number of Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) Tuberculosis cases reported to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) has increased from 116 in 2007 to 336 in 2014, showing an infection increase of more than 100 per cent over seven years.
Health minister, Dr Bernhard Haufiku revealed this during the question and answer session in the National Assembly (NA) on Thursday. Haufiku said as of 13 October 2015, a total of 546 confirmed patients of Drug Resistant-Tuberculosis (DR-TB) are on treatment, of which 243 are hospitalised and 303 are on outpatient treatment.
At least 778 patients have been put on MDR TB treatment during the period of 2012 to 2014. During the same period, 15 people were diagnosed with Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB).
Six patients are currently undergoing treatment. Treating TB has become more and more complex over the years and treatment in some cases extends to over two years, as the virus has developed resistance to drugs because of erratic and inconsistent treatment of patients.
Haufiku highlighted the treatment success rate of all DR-TB cases that commenced with treatment for the 2012 cohort being 212 out of 313 (68 per cent).
Currently on treatment on all DR-TB are 68 non-Namibian patients; 58 Angolan, two Zimbabwean and one Botswana national. MDR-TB cases of the 2012 cohort reported a treatment success rate of 142 out of 208 (68 per cent) while the success rate for XDR cases stood at one out of six - 20 per cent.
Haufiku explained that the reason for the low success rate for XDR-TB is because it is extremely difficult to treat, and being resistant to one out of three available drugs.
Most XDR-TB patients die within a month of diagnosis. He also highlighted that treatment challenges in Namibia were mostly faced with the San communities due to limited access to health facilities.
He said another challenge was the continuation of transmission due to delayed diagnosis and the type of environments the infected patients were living in, which lead to high prevalence rates of MDR-TB in those communities.
The TB bacterium spreads through the air and travels outside the body of an infected person when they breathe, cough, sneeze, speak or sing.
Retention on treatment due to conflict between the mode of treatment delivery and the lifestyles of the patients was also a major challenge highlighted by the minister.
According to the minister, while Namibia is not on track with achieving her Millennium Development Goal of less than 300 TB cases per 100 000, she has achieved the target of treating 85 per cent of TB cases and a TB death rate of less than four per cent.