Helena Johannes

Khomas region has the highest number of Tuberculosis (TB) cases in Namibia, the Acting Regional Health Director of Khomas Region Patema Amunyela has revealed.

“Windhoek being the most populated town in Namibia. It is where most cases of Tuberculosis have been recorded. However the country has shown a high decline in TB cases,” she said.

Dr Nunurai Ruswa, a Clinical Mentor of the TB and Leprosy Program in the Ministry of Health said, “We have successfully contained TB by 60 percent so far, and this shows that we are doing very well compared to our neighboring countries.”

According to a 2019 press release on World TB Day, Namibia has realized a steady decline in the number of notified cases of tuberculosis from a peak of 16,156 in previous years, down to 8,100 cases in 2018. “We also want to reduce TB death by 95 percent by 2035. We also want to make sure that no family is suffering from catastrophic financial problems [as a result of managing the illness],” Ruswa said.

Comparing Tuberculosis and CIVID-19, Murwa said TB is curable. However, 37,000 people die every year from it in the SADC, which is equivalent to almost five deaths every hour.

“So far TB kills more people than COVID-19 despite it having medication and cure as Namibia remains among the thirty high tuberculosis burden countries in the world with more than 700 people estimated to have died as a result of TB in 2018 alone.”

However, Tuberculosis and COVID-19 have similar symptoms which include dry cough and high fever; they both affect the respiratory system.

However, Murwa said that, “The germs that cause COVID-19 are different from those that cause TB, however they are associated with similar symptoms. One can have Tuberculosis for over six months which is longer than the survival of COVID-19 cells in humans which only takes up to fourteen days.”

Amunyela revealed that TB wards have been directed to assist COVID-19 patients due to limited resources, but service delivery has not been stopped as mass campaigns in communities has been ongoing to reduce the number of attendants at hospitals due to the Covid19 outbreak.

“TB is an opportunistic infection when it comes to COVID-19 because Tuberculosis weakens the immune system which makes it easy for one to catch COVID-19. People who smoke are mostly on the edge of being infected by Tuberculosis,” she said.

She added that TB treatment and medications are free of charge at all public health centers across the country. “It is time for everyone to do their part in this. If you adhere to the treatment, you can be cured of TB,” she said.