Dr George Sipa Yankey, Minister of Health on Tuesday called on all and sundry to join hands in preventing, controlling and curing Tuberculosis (TB) that was spreading steadily and causing loss of productivity to the country.
He noted that despite scientific advances, the disease had staged a comeback with a vengeance, as reports indicated that the number of TB cases had been on the increase since 1995.
“From 5,000 cases reported on the average in the 1980s, recent cases give an average of 14,000 new cases every year, “he said.
Dr Yankey made the call in Bolgatanga when launching this year's World TB Day on the theme, "I am stopping TB", saying “stopping TB was the responsibility of every individual.”
He said even though TB was infectious and an infected person could spread the disease to about 10 to 15 persons in a year, it could be brought under control as it could be cured and the public could help prevent its spread by encouraging infected people to seek medical help in good time.
"Fortunately, we now possess well established methods for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, currently our treatment success rate is close to 85 per cent which is a marked improvement over what we could achieve just a decade ago," he said.
Dr Yankey explained that the theme was a two-year campaign, aimed at involving everybody to control and cure TB.
He said the Ministry of Health used five million dollars in 2008 and would need six million dollars this year with the hope of achieving better results.
Dr Yankey said 1,018 TB treatment centres and 219 diagnostic centres had been established and plans were underway to put up more diagnostic centres with quality equipment to diagnose the disease throughout the country.
He regretted that TB case detection rate was rather low, a national average of 37 per cent and appealed to traditional rulers and opinion leaders to help create awareness about the importance of seeking medical treatment, saying "as custodians of culture you can do a lot to demystify the disease which has a cure".
Dr Joseph A. Amankwa, Director of Public Health, Ghana Health Service, said TB was predominantly a disease of poverty and low-income countries accounted for about 95 per cent of TB cases and 98 per cent of TB deaths worldwide.
"The association between poverty and TB is well established and widespread. Impoverished communities and social groups are at higher risk of infection with the TB germ compared to the general population due to overcrowded living or working conditions, poor nutrition, co-infections and migration from or to higher risk communities", he noted.
Controlling the disease, he said, was thus a political poverty alleviation tool, whereby eliminating extreme poverty would reduce the incidence of the disease.
Dr Amankwa said other challenges facing TB eradication included HIV/AIDS, Multi-drug Resistant TB cases which is estimated to be 2.6 per cent in the country and stigmatisation.
However, Dr Amankwa said the fight against TB could not be lost if a collective responsibility and commitment was put in, and urged all to help in their own ways to eliminate TB.
He appealed to health workers to treat suspected and confirmed TB patients with compassion and empathy saying, "let us be aware that our poor attitude towards our patients will erode the very core values that guide our work".
Dr Frank Addae Bonsu, Programme Manager, National TB Control Programme said TB was a leading killer among people suffering from HIV/AIDS and it was also a major cause of death in women of child bearing age.
He noted that TB was a public health problem that could undermine the business community as it could take a big toll on the population and urged them to support the TB programme.
Dr Daniel Kertesz, World Health Organisation Representative in Ghana said WHO would continue to provide support to the Tuberculosis Strategic Plan developed by the Ministry of Health for stopping TB in the country.