News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday February 16th 2019

‘Middle class’ swine flu eclipses frightening TB stats

Brenda Nkuna

As panic over swine flu continues to mount, health experts say TB is still the most serious threat facing the country. Although the respiratory disease claims an estimated 1000 lives per day in South Africa, doctors feel the media has neglected TB coverage and instead created a disproportionate anxiety over H1N1, responsible for fewer than 10 deaths over three months since it hit the country.

“The media is fuelling hysteria in the middle class group,” said professor of public health at the University of the Western Cape, David Sanders, of the swine flu coverage.

Sanders said “great awareness” had been created among the richer groups while the “sad truth” was that little was said of those who die every winter in the townships, where TB, HIV/Aids and diarrhoea are rife.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Global TB Report South Africa currently ranks fourth in the world for TB infection, with an incidence rate of 940 cases per 100 000 people – a major increase from 338 per 100 000 population in 1998. The Western Cape health department confirmed there is an annual increase of TB cases, with 50 156 cases in the Western Cape in 2008. Of this figure 3.5% of those diagnosed with the disease, and 6% of those who had suffered from it previously, died.

About 234 XDR/MDR (Extreme Drug Resistant and Multi-Drug Resistant) patients were admitted to Brooklyn Chest Hospital between January 2009 and July 2009. The number of outpatients with MDR TB for this period was 606.

Meanwhile the latest statistics from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases revealed that 430 people in the Western Cape have tested positively for swine flu.

Spokesperson for the Treatment Action Campaign, Mandla Majola, said media had definitely put too much focus on swine flu than TB. He said this created the impression that the high rate of TB deaths in the country was neither as problematic nor as frightening as swine flu.

Majola said while it was important for the media to raise awareness, such focus had spread panic among people living in informal settlements too, who were particularly vulnerable due to lack of sanitation, water, housing, electricity and other basic needs. Moreover they seldom have access to private treatment or a healthy diet as a result of unemployment and poverty.

Dr Eric Goemaere of Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the country and media should concentrate more on what needed priority. He said at least 6% of people diagnosed with in Khayelitsha last year had a drug-resistant strain of the disease, and of those, three-quarters were also HIV-positive. — West Cape News.

Tags: HIV, n1h1, swineflu, TB

Reader Feedback

One Response to “‘Middle class’ swine flu eclipses frightening TB stats”

  1. Swine Flue created a lot of mass panic during the height of its infection`-.

Leave a Reply