A health expert expressed concern over the rising incidents of tuberculosis (TB) among young Filipinos.

Department of Health Disease Prevention and Control Bureau TB adviser Dr. Ronald Allan Fabella said 12 percent of the total number of TB patients in the country are young Filipinos.

“Only by detecting and treating TB cases will stop transmission and bring down the number of cases,” Fabella told The Manila Times.

Fabella said diagnosing TB for patients under 15 is a challenge because children can’t produce sputum for confirmatory tests.

The World Health Organization estimates that around 741,000 Filipinos have tuberculosis, or around 650 TB cases per 100,000, with the high number due to delayed reporting brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fabella said that while the number of diagnosed Filipinos with TB in 2022 has already reverted to the pre-pandemic level of 470,000 reported cases, the lack of testing and treatment services in the past two years has left a lingering effect.

Pulmonary tuberculosis is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis which can be transmitted airborne to healthy individuals from an infected individual displaying symptoms.

Statistically, only 10 percent of those infected by the bacteria will develop TB.

The disease has higher risk factors for those with existing medical conditions, smokers, immunocompromised individuals, and people living in congested environments like slum areas.

Fabella said that people were usually unaware of the signs and symptoms of the disease, adding the government is intensifying its information drive on TB.

He said health centers, rural health units and private clinics, are capable of treating TB patients through the Delivery of TB Services Program of the government which offers free testing and medicines.

Through online video, doctors can now supervise a TB patient’s treatment remotely.

“There are technologies that can really help us and as more people become literate, it will form an important part of strategies in the near future,” Fabella said.

Fabella added that the good news is that TB is a very curable disease.

“Almost all patients get cured from TB. If you take your medicine for two weeks already, you are not infectious anymore. TB is curable, we should not get scared and we should get ourselves treated,” he said.