Kenya’s TB burden higher than previously thought

NAIROBI, Kenya, 24 March 2017 – Kenya’s Tuberculosis disease burden is higher than initially thought with close to 40 percent of the country’s cases going undetected.

The National TB Prevalence Survey, released on Friday shows that in 2015 Kenya diagnosed and treated 82,000 people for TB, but that the actual number of people who contract the disease every year is actually138,105.

In the same year, the World Health Organization (WHO) had estimated that Kenya’s prevalence rate was 233 cases per 100,000 but according to the new survey, Kenya’s prevalence rate is 558 cases per 100,000. Considering that one undiagnosed and untreated individual can infect 10 to 15 people, this pool of missed TB cases continues to fuel the spread of the disease.

Speaking at the launch of the study Dr. Izaq Odongo, who is the Head of the Department of Curative and Rehabilitative Services, announced that all presumed TB cases shall be subjected to GeneXpert tests. Dr. Odongo, who represented the Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopa Mailu, said the move will enable the country capture all the misdiagnosed TB cases at the health facility level.

The reveals that  three quarter of the people, with TB symptoms, who sought health care did not get diagnosed while a quarter of those found to have the disease did not report any symptoms.

“In light of these results and in an effort to find the missing TB cases, the Government commits to: screen all persons with respiratory symptoms seeking care at health facilities for TB; carry out targeted screening and active case finding among high risk groups and expand the use of Chest X-ray to screen all persons presumed to have TB,” he announced.

The survey found that the prevalence of TB in men was twice as high as that of women with the overall highest burden being among people aged 25 to 34. Interestingly, 83 percent of TB cases were HIV negative. This suggested that interventions to control TB among people living with HIV had been successful and that a large burden of TB now existed among people not infected with HIV.

The survey was conducted with support from the WHO, the Global Fund, USAID among other partners. WHO Country Representative to Kenya Dr. Rudolf Eggers said that the organization will support Kenya in deriving strategies to end TB based on the study.

Global Fund’s Portfolio Manager in Kenya, Mr. John Ochero pointed out that Africa carried 13 percent of the world’s population but contributed 26 percent of the global TB burden. He urged African countries to rise their domestic funding in order to win the war against TB, given that 16 out of the 30 high TB burden countries in the world are in Africa.

USAID’s Health, Population and Nutrition Office Chief, Dr Randolph Augustin lauded Kenya’s efforts in conducting the TB survey saying that reliable data can direct interventions better. “As long as we are breathing we are vulnerable to TB. Let us continue working together to rip Kenya off the misery that accompanies this disease,” he stated.

Also present was Hon. Stephen Mule, the Chair of the parliamentary TB Caucus, Dr. Andrew Mulwa who is the Chair of the County Executives for Health Forum, Ms. Evelyn Kibuchi- Coordinator Stop TB Partnership Kenya and Dr. Evans Amukoye- Deputy Director, Research and Training at KEMRI. Several TB champions were also present.

The National TB Prevalence Survey 2016 is the first TB survey post-independence. It was conducted through community level screening of 63,000 people in 45 Counties between July 2015 and July 2016. Survey participants were asked a series of questions to assess whether they had TB symptoms and were subjected to a chest x-ray. Those with a cough and/or abnormal chest x-ray were requested to submit a sputum sample for laboratory analysis through the use of microscopy, GeneXpert and culture.