* Final paper for the course Writing in the Sciences — a Stanford University online offering. (November 2012.)   

Not having basic knowledge of the symptoms, a Filipino could be unaware of that incessant coughing with fever, night sweats, and abrupt weight loss are already signs of tuberculosis (TB) infection. Early detection is often hindered because diagnosis relies on radiology and blood testing, which is expensive and not routine in Filipino healthcare system.

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This paper aims to educate Filipinos about TB because among poor countries including the Philippines, one third of the population is infected with strains of TB virus and new cases occur at a rate of about one per second [1]. Specifically respiratory inspection, heart disease and TB are the top three causes of death annually in the Philippines, with 46, 45 and 44 deaths in a thousand, respectively [2].

With modern medicines, we hope to lower these death rates by providing the people with methods to detect the early stages of infection, practice proper hygiene in their homes and when necessary, recommend them for medical check-up. Tuberculosis is not unique to Philippines. Internationally, TB is the main microbial killer of adults [3] causing about 13.7 million chronic active cases, 9.3 million new cases, and 1.8 million deaths per year, mostly in developing countries [2a]. Reportedly, about 80% of the population in many Asian and African countries test positive in tuberculin tests [4].

Many Filipino health workers and educators blame these infections to chronic poverty. Tuberculosis, which usually attacks the lung, threatens the health of people in the mine pit, wet market, farm, factory, and many other industries. And since the TB virus could spread through air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or otherwise transmits his saliva through the air [5] it may further endanger other people around him. Patients with full-blown TB virus require long courses of multiple antibiotics (pills) and family members, relatives and friends may also be screened and treated.

TB

In the Philippines, government and foreign organizations sponsor screening programs and vaccinations to prevent epidemic [6].

To fight the challenge, a group of Filipino medical researchers and government health workers published a paper that assessed the magnitude of TB in our country [7]. The findings are now used in our national tuberculosis control programs and we are hoping it will effectively address the Philippines’ health reform initiatives.

Finally, we have a long way to go to defeat the TB virus but with better knowledge and full support from the new Aquino government, we are able to provide our people with effective anti-tuberculosis drugs (e.g. isoniazid, rifampicin, Pyrazinamide, Ethambutol, and Streptomycin) free-of-charge through national and local Department of Health centers.

Reference:

[1] WHO Tuberculosis Fact sheet. (March 2010). World Health Organization
[2] [2a] World Health Organization (2009).”Epidemiology.” Global tuberculosis control: epidemiology, strategy, financing. pp. 6–33
[3] Frieden TR, Sterling TR, Munsiff SS, Watt CJ, Dye C. (2003). Tuberculosis. (Vol. 362: 887–99)
[4] Kumar, Vinay; Abbas, Abul K.; Fausto, Nelson; & Mitchell, Richard N. (2007). Robbins Basic Pathology (8th ed.). Saunders Elsevier. pp. 516–522
[5] Konstantinos, A. (2010). Testing for tuberculosis. Australian Prescriber 33 (1): 12–18.
[6] Centers for Disease Control. (1990). Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Tuberculosis in Health Care Settings, with Special Focus on HIV-related Issues. MMWR 1990/39(RR-17):1-29.
[7] T.E. Tupasi, S. Radhakrishna, M.L. Pascual, M.I.D. Quelapio, M.L. Villa, V.M. CO, J. Sarol, N. Mangubat, A. C. Reyes, A. Sarmiento, M. Solon, F. Solon,L. Burton,V.S. Lofranco,M.P.C. Rostrata and M.J. Mantala. (2000). BCG Coverage and the Annual Risk of Tuberculosis Infection over a 14-year Period in the Philippines Assessed from the Nationwide Prevalence Surveys.

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