It is a general knowledge that for long, tobacco smokers of all ages face increased chances of dying from certain diseases than people who don’t smoke. This is very evident, for instance, by looking at the 20 million Americans who have died because of smoking since the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was issued in 1964. Many of those who died were adults. It is however very important to note that out of the 20 million who died, 2.5 were not smokers but rather breathed air polluted by the tobacco smokers.
The trend has however changed today where smoking is no longer for adults but also the young generation.
According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is one of the major causes of disability and death worldwide with over 95 per cent of TB deaths occuring in low- and middle-income countries. In 2014, 9.6 million people became ill with TB and 1.5 million people died from the disease. TB is a leading cause of death for people infected with HIV. In 2015, 1 in 3 HIV deaths was due to TB and on the global scale, in 2014, an estimated 480, 000 people developed multidrug-resistant TB
However, despite of its negative impact to human life, the rate of smoking is still very high today.
Relationship between tobacco smoke and TB
Dr Sanctus Musafiri, a specialist in respiratory diseases at CHUK, says smoking reduces human immunity and thus the defenses in the lungs are very much affected.
“When the TB bacterium gets better of the already weak body, succumbing to the disease becomes easy. Once one gets infected, TB is easily transmitted, the bacteria easily find their way to the lympnodes, the lungs and near the lungs so you will easily react to diseases such as TB,” he explains.
Dr Ian Shyaka, a general medical officer in Uganda, says that human bodies contain defense systems with the sole purpose of preventing any form of infection to the body.
“These cells are impaired when someone smokes. There are other mechanisms within the lungs that wash away or remove all the bacteria and other foreign agents in the lungs and these become impaired when someone smokes,” says Dr Shyaka.
TB burden in Rwanda
According to Dr Musafiri, TB has been a major public health outcry for not only Rwanda but the entire Africa and the world as a whole but of recent especially in Rwanda, its prevalence has been so low.
He says that each year, they receive between 6,000 to 8,000 new cases of TB in Rwanda.
“The serious cases such as multi-drug resistance TB ranges from 100 to 200 cases per year,” he says.
He however notes that TB cases are higher in the neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Minimising the TB death rate in Rwanda
Dr Musafiri says the Government of Rwanda equipped all the hospitals with the necessary medicine and created awareness about the dangers of TB.
He says all hospitals in the country can diagnose and treat TB free-of-charge courtesy of the government subsides. “TB and HIV/AIDS are like brothers. A person with AIDS can be easily succumb to TB as both weaken the body’s defense mechanism,” Dr Musafiri notes.