Preventing TB among Filipino children

By KC Santos,

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – Unknown to many Filipinos, tuberculosis or TB also affects children.

The Department of Health (DoH) is intensifying its campaign against TB by also raising awareness and prevention of the disease on children.

TB is the sixth leading cause of death in the country, killing 98 Filipinos each day. In the watch list of the World Health Organization, the Philippines ranks ninth among 22 countries burdened with this disease.

The Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis (PhilCAT) recently gathered parents and their children at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Hospital for an  interactive briefing.

It was part of Health department's Philippine Plan of Action to Control Tuberculosis 2010 to 2016 that aims to prevent and reduce cases of TB among chikdren.

The World Vision Development Foundation Inc. (WVDFI) and Holistic Community Development and Initiatives Inc.,(HCDI) is also deploying personnel in various communities to conduct similar briefings on TB.

According to PhilCat chair Dr. Vincent Balanag, Jr., the problem with TB cases among children is the fact that its diagnosis is not fully incorporated with the National Tuberculosis Program of the DoH, resulting to a limited coverage for TB prevention and patient treatment.

Apart from limited resources, knowledge of the guidelines for detecting the presence of TB among children is still limited.

Balanag said that in diagnosis of TB in children, the bacteriological sputum test - the most accessible and commonly used for detecting TB in adults - does not guarantee a TB negative patient. In fact, sputum negative patients can still harbor the infectious disease.

Presently, the DoH and other pediatric societies rely on clinical presentation, X-rays, tuberculin skin tests and the newest diagnostic method called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for diagnosis of young patients.

Balanag adds that unlike the previous diagnostic methods that produce results from 24 hours to 6 to 8 weeks, the PCR produces the result in just two hours, which enables the doctors to counter the disease at its early stages and prevent it from being spread.

The only drawback with this new method is the price. The PCR test alone costs P10,000 and the diagnosis kits have to be housed in laboratories when ideally it  should be spread across regions.

In urban poor areas of Tondo and Quezon City, slight improvements in services have been implemented with the help of the Research Institute of Tuberculosis and the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association (RIT-JATA).

The current BCG vaccination which should be administered to infants don't have long-term efficacy therefore parents should make themselves aware of the symptoms of TB as this manifests differently and indirectly with children.

“Filipinos should recognize that TB affects all ages especially children. In fact, children are considered the high risk group,” Balanag said.

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