Alarm as TB cases in Kenya increase to over 90,000

A total of 90,841 cases of tuberculosis (TB) were reported in 2022, a notable surge from the preceding year’s 77,854 diagnoses.

This alarming increase in cases of the deadly disease, unveiled by Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Mary Muriuki, casts a shadow over the nation’s well-being, underscoring the persistent challenges in diagnosing and treating TB, particularly in the rural areas where a concerning number of cases lurk undetected.

As if the numbers weren’t disquieting enough, the revelation that these reported cases merely account for 68 percent of the estimated 133,000 TB instances in 2022 is an urgent call to action by policymakers in the country.

At the same time, the emergence of 756 drug-resistant TB cases further amplifies the urgency for a unified and comprehensive response.

Muriuki spoke during the unveiling of a National Plan for TB 2023-2028 that seeks to address the looming health crisis by incorporating a community-centered Universal Health Coverage initiative. This plan involves the deployment of Community Health Promoters for grassroots TB detection across the country.

Overall, the plan, which is backed by the World Health Organization, USAID, and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), among others is a renewed commitment to ending TB and building a healthier Kenya.

“The strategic plan, therefore, becomes a vital advocacy tool for resource mobilization across all sectors, including the private sector. It encourages innovative financing to meet the needs of the people, and I call upon all stakeholders to join hands in this endeavour,” Muriuki added.

The WHO estimates that over 10.6 million people were attacked by TB in 2022 across the world, out of which 1.25 million were children and adolescents. In the year under review, an estimated 1.1 million people succumbed to TB.

“Kenya, identified among the top 30 high TB and TB & HIV burden countries by the WHO, had an estimated 128,000 people with TB, and 17,000 deaths in 2022,” Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, the UN health agency’s country representative in Kenya revealed.

Read also: WHO raises alarm over polio outbreak in Kenya

What causes TB?

TB is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium that primarily affects the lungs but can also target other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain.

TB is an airborne disease, and it spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, releasing respiratory droplets containing the bacteria. The transmission of TB is influenced by various factors, and several conditions can contribute to the development of the disease such as:-

Close Contact with an Infected Person: The most common way TB spreads is through close and prolonged contact with someone who has an active TB infection.

Weak Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to TB. Conditions such as HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, diabetes, and certain medications (e.g., corticosteroids, chemotherapy) can compromise the immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to TB infection.

Living or Working Conditions: Overcrowded and poorly ventilated environments facilitate the spread of TB. This is particularly relevant in areas with limited access to healthcare, where people may live in close quarters.

Age: TB can affect individuals of any age, but young children and the elderly are more susceptible to severe forms of the disease.

Substance Abuse: Substance abuse, especially tobacco, can increase the risk of TB and worsen the disease’s outcome.

Healthcare Settings: Inadequate infection control measures in healthcare facilities can contribute to the transmission of TB. Healthcare workers may be at higher risk due to their exposure to infected patients.

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