Sierra Leone is one of 30 countries with the highest burden of tuberculosis in the world. Tuberculosis is still the #1 infectious disease killer in the world and containing it during the COVID-19 pandemic had become increasingly difficult in Sierra Leone, as throughout the developing world. (See: COVID-19 effects on tuberculosis care in Sierra Leone.)
For the poor, quarantine has heavy economic implications as people lose their daily income, making it even more difficult for families to access health care. In Sierra Leone, the government allowed health facilities to provide patients with enough TB medication for weeks in order to reduce movement and flatten the COVID-19 curve. This may have lead to low treatment adherence with potential consequences for TB cure rates, development of drug resistant TB, and spread in the community.
Christina, age 29, was brought to Mercy Hospital complaining of breathing difficulty, cough, and chest pain. She also had back pain radiating to her neck, all classic symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis. Dr. Aruna Stevens admitted her immediately because she was not breathing. A chest X-ray showed a positive result for TB. Mercy's TB focal person commenced intensive treatment for Christina, and she was placed in isolation to prevent the spread of infection. Over the next several days, Christina received intensive respiratory therapy and home care education. When her condition was stabilized, she was released with instructions for self care at home, as well as appropriate medication.
"Pulmonary tuberculosis is a very serious and common condition in Sierra Leone," Dr. Stevens explained. "Treatment is available for free, and tuberculosis can be cured if diagnosed early."
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