Workplaces need to step-up in TB prevention efforts


March 24th, 1882 marked the day that Dr Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis as the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) and facilitated its diagnosis and treatment. TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), EACH DAY GLOBALLY, nearly 4,000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Workers in different sectors are not spared the wrath of TB, as a result of workplace exposure (health workers, silica-dust exposed workers and others) and other social determinants as well as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has led to reductions in access to TB care, due to redeployment of essential health resources and personnel. Workers around the world and, in particular,  in the low and middle income countries, report a lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for the prevention of TB and COVID-19.

Thus, as we commemorate World TB day 2021, and in recognition of the fact that “The Clock is Ticking”, workplaces need to step-up their workplace TB programmes by:

·        Improving access to TB, HIV and COVID-19 health services in the workplace;

·        Improving TB, HIV and COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures in health settings and in silica-dust exposed high risk occupations;

·        Reducing silica dust in high-risk occupations;

·        Providing and ensuring appropriate screening and early diagnosis, treatment access and support;

·        Supporting universal drug-susceptibility testing, and systematic screening of contacts and high-risk groups in the work place;

·        Collaborating on TB, HIV and COVID-19 activities, including management of comorbidities;

·        Promoting rehabilitation, work placement and compensation of affected workers in support of social protection;

·        Identifying and addressing critical gaps and needs in TB and HIV health services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic;

·        Committing to support universal health coverage, which includes occupational health and safety services