Phuentsholing has recorded about 20 percent of the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) cases in the country.

This was highlighted while observing the World TB Day on March 24 at the College of Science and Technology (CST) in Phuentsholing.

Bhutan recorded 55 MDR-TB cases in 2016. It increased to 70 in 2017.

Phuentsholing general hospital recorded four MDR-TBs this year.

The health secretary, Dr Ugen Dophu, said after Thimphu, Phuentsholing recorded a maximum number of TB cases in the country. “MDR-TB is increasing in Phuentsholing.”

He said that although TB can be treated, cured and prevented, there is a stigma attached to it that refrains some TB patients from taking treatment from health facilities in Bhutan.

“People go across the border, consult private clinics, and take inadequate treatments at an expensive price,” he said. “Take full course of treatment without fail if you are diagnosed with TB,”

He said that people gets MDR-TB when they do not complete the full course of treatment.

PGH’s medical officer-in-charge, Dr Thinley Pelzang, said the genexpert test has helped the hospital in detecting MDR-TB cases. “ We are trying our best to decrease the cases.”

He attributed the increase in TB cases in Phuentsholing to the porous border and congestion. “A lot of people go across the border to shop and entertain and increase chances of infection.”

Bhutan saw 1,145 TB cases in 2016. It dropped to 881 in 2017. Phuentsholing recorded about 10 to 11 percent of total TB cases in the country.

Stressing on the theme “Wanted: Leaders for TB-free world” for the World TB Day, Dr Ugen Dophu said a leader could be a government, non-government organisations, or any individual.

“Ministry alone cannot fight against TB,” he said. “It is a multi-sectorial approach and everybody has an individual responsibility towards a world free of TB.”

Although TB infects about 40 percent of the Bhutanese population, Dr Ugen Dophu said not everyone would develop TB in their lifetime. “Only 10 percent of that 40 percent will develop TB disease.”

He said people who smoke or are undernourished or with the less immune system because of diseases such as HIV infection, diabetes, and cancer gets infected with the disease.

Dr Ugen Dophu said it is the responsibility of health ministry to make diagnostic facilities available to all patients and provide effective TB medicines for people diagnosed with it.

“Although Bhutan is a low TB burden country, health ministry considers it a public health concern,” he said.

Dr Ugen Dophu also said more TB cases were among the age group 15-35, which comprises of productive citizens.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing