TB Patients In Cape Town Use Cough Syrup And Antibiotics For Treatment


The rising spread of Tuberculosis in South Africa has become a big issue to the health department of Cape town. This has become so following the recent findings that many South Africans had resulted to taking self medications such as taking cough syrup and antibiotics and in a way to proffer cure for their ailment.

The City of Cape Town has raised its concern over the non-cough-hygiene in the people who are carriers and this has aided a rapid spread of the communicable disease. The city has therefore urged residents to get tested for TB in the run-up to World TB Day on 24 March 2016.

Tuberculosis popularly known as TB is an infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs. It is caused by the  bacteria which  spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.

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Close contact with someone who has TB symptoms increases the risk of infection. However, while a skin test may come back positive, not everyone who is infected will develop TB. The difficulty is that it is impossible to predict how many of those with positive skin tests will translate into TB cases later.

Recalling, Desmond Tutu last year noted that the toll TB has taken on so many South Africans. not lesser than 1.5 million people round the world, are killed by the deadly disease every year.

Tutu pointed further that the disease happens to be the number one cause of death in South Africa, with more than 50,000 people dying of TB every year. But still, the city health has continued to record a low turn out of people starting TB treatment since the past five years.

Howbeit, 23 815 patients were recorded to have started treatment in 2015 among which 1,539 were children. 45% of the patients were co-infected with HIV; A total of 1 021 multidrug-resistant (MDR) patients were diagnosed and commenced treatment according to Health24.

According to the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli, the fact that the caseload of patients living with TB has decreased, does not mean the cases have entirely reduced in the society.

“Many people develop symptoms of TB but leave it unchecked or try to treat it with cough syrup or antibiotics. We need people to start thinking TB first and get tested, if only to eliminate it as a possibility. Let’s rather be safe than sorry because the longer TB goes undiagnosed, the more those around you are exposed and at risk of developing disease,” Mamkeli explained.

Though Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine helps prevent susceptible children from developing complicated or severe TB disease, it does not stand in the way of TB from infecting them. Hence caregivers are urged to take children under the age of five to the City’s clinics for a course of prophylactics if they have been exposed to a person with TB. The prophylactics can also be used by HIV-positive persons in the same situation.

Challenges Face By The City Health To Administer Treatment to TB Patients

Mamkeli  noted that though a lot has been made to tackle the health issues of the city’s TB patients, they are still faced with some challenges which include:

  • There is no culture of cough hygiene in South Africa
  • Too many cases go undiagnosed or are diagnosed at an advanced stage
  • Some patients are diagnosed, but don’t report for treatment and cannot be traced because they provide false addresses and contact details
  •  Drug-resistant TB treatment completion rates are problematic because patients have to be booked off work until sputum results are negative; they have to be at the clinic every day for treatment; and the drugs have severe side effects – which may be a contributing reason for patients to default on their treatment
  • Poor socio-economic conditions can be directly associated with a higher burden of TB in certain areas in the city

The councillor pointed that there was an urgent need for vaccines that could prevent those breathing in the germs from developing TB to be made available and accessible to the department. “we have to work with what we have which is education, awareness and regular TB tests.” she added.

Common Symptoms Of TB

Are you unaware of the common symptoms of the tuberculosis? They include:

  • Coughing that lasts three or more weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

It is important to note that TB is a treatable and curable disease. Active, drug-susceptible TB disease is treated with a standard 6 month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.

After a few weeks, you won’t be contagious and you may start to feel better, then you would be tempted to stop taking your TB drugs. But it is however very important that you finish the full course of therapy and take the medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor. This is because stopping treatment too soon or skipping doses can allow the bacteria that are still alive to become resistant to those drugs, leading to a more dangerous type that would be difficult to treat.

Though TB involves lots of coughing, patients are warned to desist from using cough syrup and antibiotics and quickly rush to a health center for proper treatment.

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