HIGHER RISK IF YOU HAVE IT

TB test a must for coronavirus suspects - Kagwe

They have similar symptoms and both diseases primarily affect the lungs

In Summary

• Most of the confirmed coronavirus cases are in Nairobi, which also leads in TB; other Covid-19 cases are spread out in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale.

• Ministry says TB patients who contract coronavirus are more likely to get severely sick and even die. 

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.
TB PATIENTS MORE EXPOSED: Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.
Image: MAGRET WANJIRU

All persons suspected to have coronavirus must be tested for tuberculosis, the Ministry of Health has said. 

People sick with Covid-19 or TB show similar symptoms such as cough, fever and difficult breathing, and both diseases attack primarily the lungs.

The ministry said it made the proposal because TB patients who contract coronavirus are more likely to get severely sick and even die. 

 

"Persons with suspected, probable or confirmed Covid-19 should also be evaluated for TB disease," the division of tuberculosis, leprosy and lung disease programme proposes in a memo seen by the Star. 

The National Influenza Centre and Kenya Medical Research Institute did not confirm if any of the confirmed cases in Kenya hadbeen tested for TB. 

At least 745 people have been exposed to the coronavirus, according to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe who said the majority tested negative with others awaiting test results.

Head of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Programme Dr Elizabeth Onyango said TB usually lowers a patient's immunity. 

"Therefore, it is also likely that TB patients who get infected with Covid-19 may have a higher likelihood of severe respiratory tract infection and/or death," she said in the memo sent last week on Thursday. 

Onyango also reduced visits to health facilities by TB patients who have completed one month of treatment.

Stable patients will now only visit health facilities once a month, instead of a fortnight, while unstable patients will visit every fortnight instead of weekly.

 

"The recommended changes shall only apply during the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic," she said. 

The Kenya tuberculosis prevalence survey 2016 established that out of every 100,000 Kenyans, 558 have TB. 

According to statistics released by CS Kagwe, Kenya reported and treated 84,504 patients last year, out of whom 8,391 ( 9.7 per cent) were children.

Most of the confirmed coronavirus cases are in Nairobi, which also leads in the cases of TB.

Other cases are spread out in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties.

“We have identified certain counties we feel are high-risk and indeed the four counties have got extra exposure and we have also taken measures in those counties to create extra capacity and response mechanism than in other counties,” Kagwe said on Tuesday.

The minister noted that all the patients were in good condition except for two elderly ones who had shown signs of being unwell.

The government on Monday flew a ventilator to be used by a French patient in Kilifi whom the CS said had shown signs of improvement.

Kagwe urged mandatory testing for all contact cases and travellers, adding that the intervention is aimed at stopping further importation of the virus into the country.

Edited by R.Wamochie