New Delhi: World Tuberculosis Day is marked on March 24 in a bid to raise awareness about one of the most infectious diseases in the world. TB claims millions of victims each year and repeated research and studies show that despite increased awareness against it, the count of people affected by it remains alarmingly large - especially in India.
Meance with two faces
TB is a potentially life-threatening disease which primarily affects an individuals lungs. According to Mayo Clinic, it is mainly caused by a bacteria that can spread between people through microscopic droplets released into the air. The significant symptoms which may point towards a person having TB is continued cough for over three weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain, sudden weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills and loss of appetite. Medical experts do however agree that a person's immune system is strong enough to fight TB if the bacteria is in latent state.
Latent TB is when the bacteria inside the human body is inactive and in this state, it is not communicable, there are no obvious symptoms and may not cause any harm. Latent TB though can turn into Active TB.
Time to start the fight?
People with special conditions are especially advised to go for tests meant to check Latent TB. Those with HIV AIDS, IV drug users and those who are in close proximity to people with active TB are especially susceptible. Those with suspected Active TB are advised medical treatment which can last for months. A complete eradication of the bacteria is advised to ensure there is no relapse.
India and the world vs TB
India has repeatedly - and unfortunately - figured prominently in the list of countries with maximum TB-related deaths. According to The Lancet - a medical journal - developing countries have been especially at risk with lower and lower-middle sections of the society here reporting TB cases. According to a World Health Organisation report published in January, 10.4 million fell ill with TB across the world. Close to 1.7 million people died and that 95 per cent of the deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries. It further notes that seven countries - India, Indonesia, China, Phillippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa - account for 64 per cent of the total TB-related deaths. In India, there were an estimated 2.8 million (28 lakh) new cases of TB in 2016, with over 400,000 (4 lakh) people succumbing to the disease
While lack timely detection and treatment is regarded as one of the primary reasons for the deaths, multidrug-resistant TB or MDR-TB too is a major cause of worry.
WHO says ending TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. For India, the deadline is 2025. Launching TB Free India Campaign in Delhi earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "The global target for eliminating TB is 2030, but I announce that the target for India to eliminate TB is 2025, five years before the global target. TB mainly affects the poorest of the poor and every step taken towards the elimination of this disease is a step towards improving the lives of the poor," he had said.
The battle plan
In India in particular, the fight against TB will now be in mission mode. PM Modi has announced that CMs of all states have been told to actively take part in awareness campaigns while local medical officials have been instructed to spread awareness about the disease.
Immediate check up and treatment - if required - is the key, he said, in fighting TB. A number of activities under the National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination have also been announced.