Health: Sonam Wangmo didn’t know the price she had to pay for missing her medicines for a day.

Her tuberculosis (TB) relapsed after the first course of treatment, and she is today undergoing the second course for extra-pulmonary TB (EPTB).

Of the various forms of TB diagnosed in the country, EPTB stands at about 42 percent, followed by pulmonary or new smear positive cases at 38 percent, records with the national TB control program show.

Sonam’s mother died of tuberculosis when she was seven years old, and her brother was also infected in 2013.

“I’m a TB patient now because I had TB patients at home,” Sonam, 25, said. She was sharing her story in front of some 200 people, who had gathered at the faculty of nursing’s conference hall in Thimphu, to observe World TB Day yesterday.

Another 16 -year old student of Gelephu, Kinley Bidha, who is undergoing treatment for multi-drug resistant TB at Gidakom hospital, also shared her story.

Kinley was also infected with TB from her family members. She has dropped school for a year to complete the treatment course.

“I feel sad that I have to stay at a hospital when I should be going to school,” she said. “But right now, completing my treatment and getting out clean is important.”

Bhutan reported between 1,115 and 1,328 cases of TB annually in the last five years.

In these five years, about 382 — 454 new smear positive TB cases were diagnosed every year.

Last year, of the 1,082 total TB cases, the treatment success rate was 88 percent. There were 43 TB deaths, including 14 among new smear positive cases.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said one of the new challenges faced by the country was multi-drug resistant TB (MDR- TB) and TB HIV co-infections that could undermine the country’s achievements in prevention and control efforts.

In 2014, he said, 61 MDR- TB cases were detected, the highest ever reported. There were seven cases of TB -HIV co-infection last year, and TB is diagnosed among the productive age group of 15 — 44 years.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that getting a complete course of treatment was important. “ I was also infected with TB when I was young.” he said.

According to Global TB report, 2014, it is estimated that three million of the nine million infected cases across the world do not get treatment. World TB day this year was themed, “Reach the Three Million – Find, Treat, Cure TB.”

In her message on World TB day, WHO regional director for the southeast Asia region, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, called on countries in the region to continue addressing the underlying social determinants of TB, even if the region was on track to achieve the global target of 50 percent reduction in death rates by 2015.

“Relying on treatment and drugs alone can’t beat TB, because TB is a condition strongly influenced by low nutrition, poverty, social stigma, environmental factors, rapid urbanisation, and large population displacement in many countries,” she said.

By Nirmala Pokhrel