The National Department of Health (NDoH) has commissioned South Africa’s first survey which aims to determine the country’s true tuberculosis (TB) burden and ultimately strengthen TB control in the country.

The survey, which is being done in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HRSC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), kicked off in KwaZulu-Natal in August 2017 and is scheduled to conclude in Gauteng in November 2018.

The survey will be held nationally with a representative sample of approximately 55,000 adults identified, sampled from 110 population clusters. The results are expected to be announced in 2019.

“The TB prevalence survey that covers the whole country is long overdue. The survey will not only provide an estimate of South Africa’s true TB burden, but it will also provide invaluable information to strengthen South Africa’s response needed to Stop and End TB in our life time,” said Deputy Director at the NDoH, Dr Yogan Pillay.

“The survey is using the latest technology that is highly sensitive and specific for diagnosing TB. This is an exciting time and we encourage all fellow South Africans to be part of this momentous activity,” said Head of the Centre for Tuberculosis at the NICD, Dr Nazir Ismail.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa ranks among the 22 high burden countries and contributes to about 80% of the total global burden of all TB cases.

“The survey will also provide information on how people who might have TB seek care in South Africa. It follows scientifically valid methodologies that have been used globally. The survey targets everyone who is 15 years and older in the selected areas. We encourage all people who are invited to participate fully by completing all the survey procedures,” said Principal Investigator at the HSRC, Dr Sizulu Moyo.

The following is what individuals can expect should they volunteer to participate:

  • Participants will be asked questions about the typical signs and symptoms of TB, being persistent coughing, having night sweats, fever, weight loss and tiredness.
  • A chest x-ray will be taken.
  • If there is any suspicion of TB or if there are any abnormalities on the chest x-ray, the participant will be requested to produce a sputum specimen, which will be investigated for the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium which causes TB.
  • If there are any TB organisms in the sputum, the result will be provided to the focal TB person of the cluster, which will contact the participant in order to link him/her to care and treatment.

“The findings of this survey will be a landmark event in the epidemiology of TB in South Africa. The results will influence response strategies, programmes and interventions to build on the existing successes in response to managing the TB epidemic,” concluded Scientist at the MRC and Co-Principal Investigator of the Survey, Professor Martie van der Walt.

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