GOVERNMENT tomorrow (Wednesday) embarks on the first ever nationwide tuberculosis (TB) survey to ascertain the actual burden of the disease in communities. Officially launching the survey yesterday in Harare, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Paul Chimedza said the true epidemiology of the disease is unknown.
"The validity of TB disease prevalence and incidence rates basing on the routine surveillance data is filled with uncertainty," he said.
He said the survey would therefore help Government in planning and managing TB programmes.
"The primary objective of the national TB prevalence is to estimate the prevalence of pulmonary TB among adult (aged 15 years or older) population," he said.
The survey is also expected to establish if all people with TB seek medical attention at all and reasons for not seeking treatment for those who do not.
Spearheaded by the Biomedical Research and Training Institute, the survey begins with a pilot project on Wednesday in Gwanda,
Bulawayo city, Mvurwi and Mazowe and would run until the end of the month.
BRTI's principal investigator in the survey Mrs Junior Mutsvangwa said the survey is expected to roll out in all provinces and districts beginning January down to October.
"We are targeting all people aged 15 years and above and we hope by next year around this time of the year, we will have a report of the survey for review," said Mrs Mutsvangwa.
She said since the survey would be based on collecting sputum, children would not be eligible to take part in the survey as they are unable to provide the sputum needed.
Mrs Mutsvangwa said the BRTI would be working with a number of organisations including the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, which would handle all data.
"What we are doing has gone through a lot of consultations and we are confident that it is scientifically and ethically sound," she said.
Deputy director of Aids and TB Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Charles Sandy said the survey is relevant in the Zimbabwe situation.
Dr Sandy said it is relevant as according to recorded cases of TB, the disease burden in declining.
He said cases declined from 60 000 in 2002 to 30 000 in 2012.
"The big question for us now is are we doing a good job in terms of our response to TB or we are doing badly by letting many patients go without diagnosed," he said.
Dr Sandy said these questions would only be answered through results of the survey.
Zimbabwe remains one of the 22 countries in the world that have a high burden of TB.
Of these 22 countries, 10 of them have already done this national TB survey.
According to World Health Organisation Global TB report for 2013, the estimated prevalence of all forms of TB in Zimbabwe in 2011 was 433 cases for every 100 000 people.
In 2004, the estimated prevalence was 807 for every 100 000 people.
Funding for the survey is availed by the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria.