World TB Awareness Day: What Is Being Done?

3M has used World TB Awareness Day, 24 March, as a Launchpad for its Live Life, Breathe campaign aimed primarily at professionals working to eradicate the disease. The campaign signals a renewal of 3M’s commitment to working with all role-players in the fight against MDR-TB, and is focused on continuing education aimed at preventing the spread of MDR-TB.

Live Life, Breathe, focuses on driving best practice in the use of disposable respirators primarily within the health care, mining and construction industries, which are the hardest hit. As a country, South Africa is recognized to bear one of the highest burdens of MDR-TB infections, with around 0.8% of the population – or 454 000 people, developing this illness annually.

“MDR-TB is an airborne virus, and respirators play a key role in preventing the spread of MDR-TB from infected persons to colleagues and health care professionals. They act as a literal barrier to halt the spread of the disease – but only if they are properly fitted,” explains Jaco Combrinck, 3M Division Manager, Personal Safety Division. “Our programme is aimed at helping those affected understand the need to ensure a proper seal around the face, and – most importantly – how to test that the correct respirator is being used.” Click here to find out more about the health of your lungs – and how you can best take care of them.

3M will be using the “train the trainer” approach to ensure that the techniques for testing the fit of disposable respirators are spread as widely as possible. Many people use surgical masks to protect them from MDR-TB, but they are not designed to halt airborne viruses as they are too loose-fitting. It is necessary to use a purpose-designed respirator that creates a seal around the mouth and nose, preventing the entry and exit of the virus, whilst still allowing good breathability. Mr Combrinck explains that the two basic techniques are used to test whether a particular respirator is suitable for an individual. The first technique (Qualitative Fit Test) is relatively time-consuming but uses little equipment, thus making it cost-effective. The second technique (Quantitative Fit Test) is much quicker but makes use of expensive machinery to perform the test, “Organizations will decide which approach is best suited to their needs,” he says. “The key is to ensure that everybody is protected – this is literally the best way to halt MDR-TB in its tracks.”

Live Life. Breathe will be launched officially at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on World TB Awareness Day. It will be rolled out across 16 hospitals in areas of high TB infection. Click here to find out everything you need to know about TB.