Posted on March 27, 2017

Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Communicable Diseases Center (CDC), the region’s first hospital dedicated to the identification and treatment of infectious diseases, is leading the fight against tuberculosis in Qatar. World TB Day, which is recognized on 24 March each year, is designed to build public awareness of tuberculosis. The disease remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the death of nearly 1.5 million people each year, mostly in developing countries.

Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs. It can also spread to other parts of the body, including the brain and spine. A type of bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis causes the disease. “The theme for World TB Day 2017 is, ‘Unite to End TB’,” said Dr. Muna Al Maslamani, Medical Director of the Communicable Disease Center (CDC). “Globally, more than two billion people are infected with TB. But as a disease, TB is both preventable and curable. In Qatar, we have a very low incidence of TB, which is the result of the country’s strong and innovative infectious disease control program and our education initiatives.”

This year, the CDC marked World TB Day with a series of educational lectures held at the facility for healthcare staff. A range of fun and educational activities for patients and visitors were also organized. Dr. Al Maslamani said that the CDC is home to the National TB Control Program and the state-of-the-art TB Laboratory, which provides all public and private health facilities in Qatar with TB diagnostics and leadership. “In 2016, we screened around 32,157 patients referred from HMC facilities, primary care centers, the Medical Commission, private hospitals, and clinics because of their exposure to active TB cases,” Dr. Al Maslamani said.

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While the Center treats residents who have been diagnosed with the infectious disease, those with “latent” (inactive) TB also receive preventive treatment. “At the CDC, we have a highly specialized medical team that provides consultations and treatment for patients,” she said. “If we find somebody who has been exposed to TB, we give them preventive treatment.” “If you are suspected or confirmed to have TB then you will be referred to the CDC for ongoing diagnostics, specialized treatment, and care,” Dr. Al Maslamani said, adding: “Healthcare for TB patients in Qatar is free of charge and those affected can return to work usually within two weeks of starting treatment.”

Dr. Maslamani said the key to fighting the spread of TB is to remove the stigma attached to the disease. “There is still much to be done to raise public awareness of the disease. It is a fact that TB is contagious but it is very hard to catch. The more we educate people about risk factors and prevention, the greater the chance we have to eliminate it,” she said. The CDC is a 9,000 square meter purpose-built facility which has 65 single patient rooms, all with negative pressure and 100 percent fresh air exchange and the capacity to be converted into isolation units.