Guam commemorates World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis Day virtual proclamation signing. (Zoom screen capture)

A virtual signing ceremony was held recently to proclaim World Tuberculosis Day with the theme “The Clock is Ticking.”

Department of Public Health and Social Services Director Arthur San Agustin said each year Public Health commemorates World Tuberculosis Day because it’s an opportunity to raise awareness about the devastating economic, health, and social consequences of tuberculosis.

He says it’s also a way to step up the department’s efforts to end the global TB epidemic.

San Agustin thanks the TB program that stepped up to the plate and covered the responsibilities after quarantine immigration lost their staff. They’ve assessed 30 immigrants for TB and other diseases.

He said they’ve instituted new internal processes via electronic monitoring and management of cases like the electronic disease implications system and the surveillance for tuberculosis and elimination management system.

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB services has been severe and it threatens to undo the many gains we made over recent years.

Leon Guerrero said that COVID-19 has taken so much from us. But nothing can take away our shared vision to end TB on Guam. Together, we strive to make that vision a reality.

She also thanked Public Health and their efforts to end TB and fighting off COVID-19.

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Each year, people around the world observe World Tuberculosis Day in an effort to raise public awareness of the global epidemic.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria which attacks the lungs, kidneys, spine, and brain. Since the start of the pandemic, 57 cases of tuberculosis were diagnosed in Guam; however, it is believed that more cases went underreported due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

TB is one of the world’s most dangerous infectious diseases, as an estimated 4000 people die of TB each day. In 2019, Guam had the highest incidence of TB cases in the United States, with an incident rate of 47 cases per 100,000 residents, despite it being a preventable, treatable, and curable disease.

However, efforts made by people across the globe have continued to save millions of lives.

Here on Guam, the proclamation acknowledged San Agustin; Chima Mbakwem, TB program manager; and all the healthcare professionals for their continued treatment of TB patients before and during COVID.

The Governor credited Guam’s tuberculosis team for stabilizing Guam’s COVID cases, thanks to their expertise and skills that they apply to treating and preventing its spread.

“The whole tuberculosis program, the whole tuberculosis unit, that have been out there doing the testing and contact tracing… and I really believe that we got where we’re at today because those individuals used their experience and their skills to apply them to how we deal with the pandemic,” the governor said.

Health officials at the proclamation emphasized that expanding targeted testing and treatment of latent TB infection is key to eliminating TB disease in the United States and Guam.