TB more prevalent among women in Kunar
Last year, there were 370 cases of TB registered in Kunar, with 250, or 68 percent, of them women.
“According to our records from the last six years, the number of infected women in the province is higher than the number of infected men,” said Dr. Asadullah Fazil, head of the health department in Kunar, which has been collecting the data of TB patients.
Every year, 7,500 people in Afghanistan die from TB, according to the health ministry.
Kunar is a mountainous province in eastern Afghanistan, where most people make a living from farming and animal husbandry.
Most of the people are poor and many women have to work alongside men.
Women are more vulnerable to infection because their life is more difficult and their nutrition is poor, Fazil said.
TB is an infectious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria. It most commonly affects the lungs and is spread when people who are infected cough, sneeze or spit. One third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with TB, with the highest percentage in developing countries.
Treatment is possible when the infected person visits a doctor on time and is prescribed a regular course of antibiotics. The treatment usually takes eight months, Fazil explained.
To prevent the spread of the disease, houses should be aired regularly and get lots of sunshine. People who have the disease should use separate dishes which should be washed regularly, he advised.
The most vulnerable are the poor, whose health is not good and spend a lot of time inside their home with many family members, Dr. Ahmad Shah, an infectious disease expert, said.
If a patient is not treated, he or she can infect another 10 to 15 more people within a year, he said.
Women have a much lower immune system because they work a lot, deliver too many babies, only eat leftover food, are malnutritioned during pregnancy and breast feeding, and lose blood during their monthly periods, Shah said.
Dr. Mir Hamza Wahid, head of the anti-TB programme in Kunar, said that in the last few years, health programmes have improved and more doctors have been trained in how to diagnose and treat TB patients.
“We have awareness programmes about TB and in some areas we go from house-to-house to inform our sisters,” Nasima Shafiq Sadaat, head of the women’s affairs department in Kunar, said.
“We educate them to expose kitchen and other furniture to the sun twice a week, to wash the dishes with detergent, to wash hands before eating and after using the bathroom and not to use spoiled vegetables,” she added.
Sadaat believes women get infected more than men because they do not pay attention to their health when they are busy.
Gulaba, 38, has been treated for TB over the last four months.
“I felt like I had the flu, but when I visited the hospital, they told me I was infected with TB,” she said.
Gulaba said that she has been quarantined and takes care of her health in order to prevent the transmission of the infection to other family members.
The TB infection spreads among children too.
“My daughter had a cough for 15 days, so I took her to a doctor and after an examination, he said she had TB, so we started her on a course of antibiotics,” Masoom Khan, the father of 8-year-old Zarmina, said.
But he said he would not quarantine Zarmina, because she was too young to be on her own and felt it would not help her health.
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