Preventing tuberculosis in the family
When 53-year old Merlina noticed that she has a persistent cough and fever, she knew immediately that she may have the symptoms of tuberculosis – a disease that attacks the lungs and can potentially damage other parts of the body.
Without hesitation, she went to the nearest health center in Quezon, Bukidnon and got herself checked. It was positive.
“Although there may be a stigma around TB, I thought of my children’s welfare,” she said. Merlina is a single mother of seven, two of whom are still in school. She is a farm worker and earns P200 each day.
Tuberculosis in the Philippines
TB is one of the leading causes of death in the country, with 14,000 recorded in 2015. The TB bacteria can multiply and affect not only the lungs but can also harm internal organs and other parts of the body. According to the 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) Global TB report, 10.4 million people feel ill from TB in 2015. Of the total number, 64% came only from seven countries, including the Philippines.
Tuberculosis is also contagious, something that Merlina feared most. It is caused by bacteria that can be passed on from a person with untreated and active form of TB to another, through tiny droplets spread by coughing and sneezing.
“One of my children, Jurlie, also had tuberculosis. He has two children and we did not want other members of the family to be infected so we had to make a choice,” Merlina explained.
Jurlie did not hesitate to seek help when he had symptoms of TB. He did it for his two children, 1-year old Dave (in photo) and 6-year old Mark (not in photo).
Today, Merlina and her son are cured from TB. They both finished their 6-month treatment late last year. “We couldn’t have made it without the support of the TB task force, especially Lolita. Everyday throughout my treatment, she would visit me and ensure that I take my medication.” Merlina added.
Merlina acknowledges that through the support of barangay health workers and TB task force members like Lolita, she was able to finish her medication. Everyday for six months, Lolita would visit her in her house to check on her.
Lolita is one of the health workers and TB task force members in Quezon who are now actively playing a role in preventing TB and in countering the stigma associated with it. The TB Task Force is a group of World Vision volunteers trained to identify people sick with TB and refer them to barangay or village health centers for free diagnostic and treatment services. Training like Basic Health Education and Directly Observe Treatment Short course (DOTS) are provided to equip TB task force members.
“I am well and this means I could go back to work, provide for my children and keep them from getting this disease. I hope it ends with me and my mother,” said Jurlie.
World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.