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Preventing Tuberculosis in Kenya–An Intervention Proposal

By Taylor Collins, V Form

The Tuberculosis epidemic is sweeping the world. There were about 8.6 million Tuberculosis cases in 2012[1], and there were about 1.3 million deaths related to Tuberculosis worldwide[2]. Anyone can be infected with Tuberculosis, but nations in poverty particularly suffer. People with weaker immune systems, living in a nation without sufficient healthcare and doctors, are more susceptible to Tuberculosis. For instance, those with HIV/AIDS have a compromised immune system, so their risk of contracting tuberculosis is much greater than
those without HIV/AIDS. Preventative measures need to be taken immediately, particularly in the poverty-ridden countries in the world, like Kenya.

Intervention in Kenya is crucial to improve the devastating disease that is terrorizing the nation. Every year, the Tuberculosis rate has been increasing by about 16%[3]! The primary disease burden in Kenya is the simultaneous impact of HIV/AIDS[4]. Because the leading cause of death is HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis has a substantial impact on the population[5]. In Kenya, the Tuberculosis morality rate is 62 people per 100,000[6]. In fact, due to the lack of healthcare and malnourishment in Kenya, the likelihood of suffering from Tuberculosis is high. The overall lack of healthcare makes it difficult for the Tuberculosis victims, along with those suffering from other illnesses, to go to work and school. Moreover, the dry land in Kenya makes it hard for the Kenyan farmers to grow crops to earn a living and produce food. As a result, the lack of food leads to malnourishment, which weakens the immune system, and increases the overall risk of Tuberculosis. The abundance of poverty in Kenya, supported by the GNI-PPP of only $1,010 a year[7], makes it very difficult for people to afford the necessary health care and antibiotics to treat a potential case of Tuberculosis. Additionally, the majority of the living conditions in Kenya are congested apartments, which house many people very close to one another[8]. A mere cough or sneeze will transmit Tuberculosis to the other uninfected people in the home.

In order to prevent the Tuberculosis epidemic from further spreading, funds from your private foundation are desperately needed. With 45.9% of Kenya in poverty[9], there is inadequate funding for hospitals and there is only one doctor per 10,000 people![10] External donations compose a mere 14.6% of the nation’s healthcare budget[11], so there is little access to hospitals and medical aid. As a result, the vaccinations are inevitably very difficult for the Kenyans to access, so funding is essential from your private foundation. Sponsoring Tuberculosis vaccines in Kenya will transform the lives of the Kenyan citizens and set a precedent for aiding other countries in an efficient, effective manner.

Dispersing Tuberculosis vaccinations, medically termed the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine[12], will be a logical technique for preventing Tuberculosis in Kenya. With a quick shot, the BCG vaccine injects a small dose of Tuberculosis into the body. The dose is small enough that it allows a person’s immune system to build up resistance against the disease. This way, if a person encounters Tuberculosis later in life, their immune system has already developed the ability to conquer the disease. Although the Tuberculosis vaccine is not beneficial for adults, Kenya has a very young population. In fact, the life expectancy is 50.9 years old[13], and more than 50% of the population is under the age of 15[14], so the vaccinations will be able to benefit a substantial percent of the population. The vaccinations cost only $65[15], so if your foundation provided 10 million dollars, more than 153,800 lives will be saved. As a result, the Tuberculosis vaccines will ultimately have a significant effect and prevent the future generations of Kenyans from contracting the disease.

Vaccinating the Kenyan youth will have a few drawbacks. Due to the fact that many adults are infected with Tuberculosis, along with tuberculosis vaccinations not being effective on adults, the vaccination would not prevent or treat any susceptible adults in Kenya. Moreover, it does not treat those who already have Tuberculosis, because it is just a preventative measure. Also, like any vaccine, the Tuberculosis vaccine is not guaranteed to be successful, and it may cause side effects, such as an allergic reaction[16]. Vaccinations are expensive, for it costs $10 million dollars to save over 153,800 lives, and there would still be many children unable to receive a vaccine. Despite these drawbacks, vaccines are the best method of prevention for lowering the Tuberculosis rates in Kenya.

While other methods of prevention and treatment include screenings, antibiotics, and education, the distribution of vaccinations is the most promising approach to diminishing Kenya’s Tuberculosis epidemic. For instance, antibiotics cost about $2,000 per treatment[17], only aid people who have already contracted the disease, and increase the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant Tuberculosis, which is much harder to treat and is a $200,000 process[18]. With a budget of $10 million dollars, only 50 lives would be saved from antibiotic-resistant Tuberculosis, in comparison to over 153,800 lives being saved with vaccines. Another way of treating Tuberculosis is with screenings. Although the screenings cost about the same as vaccinations, the process of executing the screenings is a very tedious procedure, and it must be done in a high-tech lab, which Kenya has limited resources to construct. Also, the doctors who conduct the screenings must avoid declaring a patient falsely positive, because that would lead to a costly, unhealthy, and unnecessary dose of antibiotics. A third alternative prevention or treatment for Tuberculosis is education. Educating people on the Tuberculosis symptoms and its level of contagiousness is important. However, education does not reduce the risk of Tuberculosis as much as a vaccine, for people might forget to wash their hands or be unaware somebody is sick, and, therefore, contagious. Clearly, despite the fact that the screenings, antibiotics, and education methods are noteworthy techniques for lowering the risk of transmitting Tuberculosis, vaccinations are the most logical method of prevention in Kenya.

Clearly, it is necessary that Tuberculosis vaccines be distributed to the suffering people of Kenya. Many Kenyans have a weakened immune system due to Kenya’s abundance of malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and lack of healthcare. As a result, the people of Kenya are highly susceptible to Tuberculosis. Funds from your foundation crucial, especially because Kenya is in dire need of healthcare subsidies. Distributing Tuberculosis vaccinations in Kenya will be inexpensive and effective, and it will have a significant impact on the future generations of the nation. All in all, the vaccines will ultimately cause the Tuberculosis rates to deteriorate in Kenya, and the nation will have the opportunity to recover from its current calamitous state.

Taylor Collins is a Vth Former from Wellesley, Massachusetts. Taylor plays squash and tennis, and she loves spending time with her family and friends.

[1] http://www.who.int/gho/tb/epidemic/cases_deaths/en/

[2]http://www.cdc.gov/tb/statistics/default.htm?s_cid=fb1804

[3]http://www.nltp.co.ke/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=26&Itemid=11

[4]http://www.nltp.co.ke/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=26&Itemid=11

[5] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/atlas/

[6] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/atlas/

[7] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/atlas/

[8] http://www.irinnews.org/report/95523/kenya-curbing-the-spread-of-tb-in-infected-households

[9]http://www.smartglobalhealth.org/pages/kenya-mission/kenya-health

[10] http://www.smartglobalhealth.org/pages/kenya-mission/kenya-health

[11]http://www.smartglobalhealth.org/pages/kenya-mission/kenya-health

[12]http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/bcg-tuberculosis-TB-vaccine.aspx

[13] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/atlas/

[14] http://www.unicef.org/kenya/overview_4616.html

[15]http://vaccinations.findthebest.com/q/30/7309/How-much-does-the-BCG-Vaccine-cost and http://www.sfcdcp.org/aitcprices.html

[16] http://www.aeras.org/pages/need-for-new-vaccines

[17]http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.webmd.com%2Flung%2Funderstanding-tuberculosis- treatment&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNFUY8s9zJAG2oZ6FRdc8sZ4w0U5Hw and http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Tuberculosis/Pages/Treatment.aspx

[18]http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwwwnc.cdc.gov%2Feid%2Farticle%2F20%2F5%2F13-1037_article.htm&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNHsTlVtlaqOFH57vRswnVjwTT-LDw and http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story092/en/

 

 

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