US health expert raises alarm over rampant TB cases in Philippines

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10:07 AM August 19th, 2013

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By: Julliane De Jesus, August 19th, 2013 10:07 AM

Dr. L. Masae Kawamura, former president of the North American Region of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, told reporters in press forum on Aug. 15, 2013, about the rising statistics of Filipino patients suffering from TB who are migrating to the United States. She said large proportion of tuberculosis patients in the US are Asians, most of them Filipinos. Video by RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—A large proportion of tuberculosis patients in the US are Asians, most of them Filipinos, a San-Francisco based medical expert has disclosed.

Dr. L. Masae Kawamura, former president of the North American Region of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, told reporters last week about the rising statistics of Filipino patients suffering from TB who are migrating to the United States.

She said Thursday in a press forum that TB is an “outcome of poor public health.” She appealed to the local government and health offices to prioritize early TB screening and bolster treatment in the country.

“The Philippines exports more tuberculosis patients than import at this point… TB is a disease of poverty and migration, and urbanization [because] people are moving from the rural countryside to the big cities like Manila,” said Kawamura.

Ranking second in Asia, the Philippines recorded high TB mortality rate next to Cambodia based on the World Health Organization (WHO) tuberculosis report. Among tuberculosis-afflicted persons, 59 percent came from Asia, the report said.

Kawamura said that tuberculosis can be latent, a condition where the infected does not experience any symptoms.

“To minimize the spread of tuberculosis and an outbreak risk, the government should work on providing a screening for people in congregate settings such as dialysis units, schools, hospitals, jails, prisons, homeless shelters and nursing homes,” she said.

The medical expert claimed that Filipinos living in crowded places, especially those in shanty communities, are more likely to develop and transmit TB.

“Having latent TB even though no one’s at fault carries a lot of stigma especially among Filipinos. The Philippines has a lot of people coming in from other parts of Asia that have high rates of TB as well,” she said.

According to Kawamura, the Philippine government detects only the full-blown TB cases rather than the latent ones.

“It easily evades our immune system and you may carry it as a child but be diagnosed with the disease 50 years later,” she said.

She added that accurate identification of latent TB bacteria is required since these persist in our body for years and decades; they are only inactive.

Kawamura also stressed that contributors could increase an individual’s chance of getting TB.

“Because it affects most of the children, just dealing with malnutrition will help beat tuberculosis. Preventing HIV and diabetes will help reduce TB cases as well. This is how it all interacts,” she said.

The TB control advocate also claimed that “because we breathe, we are all susceptible. Tuberculosis is an equal-opportunity disease. We can all get infected.”

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