X-Ray being taken at the Medical Fitness Centre, Sonapur. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: Two years after the UAE eased residency rules for people with active TB and old scars, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) is launching a nationwide campaign to educate people about the highly infectious disease.

Incidence of TB in the UAE is considered low at 0.79 per 100,000 inhabitants compared to other countries, down from 4.2 per 100,000 in 2000, according to the Global Tuberculosis Report. Nevertheless, the ministry said the UAE is committed to eradicating the disease completely. The campaign is being held ahead of a high-level meeting of the United Nations (UN) on September 26 in New York City. Countries will discuss their commitment to anti-TB campaigns and achieving the target of TB elimination by 2050.

Tuberculosis was among the communicable diseases that could be a cause for mandatory deportation in the UAE years ago. This, however, was changed in 2016 when the UAE announced it is scrapping immediate deportation for residents found with active TB or old scars.

Residents applying for visa renewal and found to have the illness were allowed to have a one-year conditional stay in the UAE provided they undergo a strict treatment protocol. If they test free of TB after treatment, they will be allowed to stay in the UAE. However, the applications of individuals for a new residency visa will be rejected if they test positive. A resident’s first-degree relatives with active or non-active TB will also be given the same visa if compliant with treatment protocol. Similar one-year conditional residency will also be given to diplomats and those who come on investor visa.

The campaign, which will run until November in Dubai and northern emirates, will educate the public about TB, which, despite being infectious, is fully treatable if the appropriate treatment method is applied.

Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics at MOHAP, affirmed the importance of intensifying efforts and cooperation with all health institutions and strategic partners in the country to control the prevalence of TB as a communicable disease.

The ministry works with an integrated strategy to combat TB by enhancing individual awareness and identifying the symptoms of TB, and ways to prevent it.

Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, Director of Preventive Medicine Department at MOHAP, said the ministry is keen on implementing many strategies, especially on the importance of prevention and early detection.

“[The strategies focus on] familiarising individuals with the preventive and therapeutic procedures taken by the ministry in cooperation with health institutions and health service providers in the state, such as the activation of short-term treatment systems under direct supervision and the provision of free medicines to all residents in the country and follow up of the patients in the primary care centers until full recovery, as well as educating the public about the need to commit and to complete the treatment and appropriate preventive measures to avoid the transmission of infection,” Dr Al Marzouqi said.

The awareness campaign will cover a number of locations in the northern emirates, targeting community members in general and some of the groups most susceptible to the disease because they come from countries with high rates of TB infection.

What is TB:

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that most often affect the lungs. It is curable and preventable. The bacteria can be spread when a person with TB coughs, sneezes, or spits and the bacteria is expelled into the air.

TB claimed 1.7 million lives globally in 2016, while 10.4 million people were infected with the disease.

Around 53 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2016.

MOHAP CAMPAIGN: The events in Dubai will be held in coordination with Dubai Municipality. The campaign will be held next in the Ajman Free Zone, and then at Umm Al Quwain Mall in October, and in other places such as Rolla Park in Sharjah, the Union Crushers in Fujairah and RAK Ceramics.

Source: World Health Organisation