TB patients need extra care amid pandemic: Doctors

IANS File Photo

IANS File Photo

GURUGRAM, MARCH 24 (IANS): As the Covid pandemic has overtaken every other health issue throughout the country, some of the doctors have suggested extra precaution for the tuberculosis (TB) patients as the virus affects lungs directly.

World TB Day is observed on March 24 every year to raise awareness about the disease in the world.

The doctors said that TB patients often have underlying co-morbidities and lung damages that might make them more prone to the coronavirus.

They further said that the symptoms of TB and Covid are quite similar, for instance cough and fever, which could not only create diagnostic confusion, but might worsen the stigmatisation of a TB patient.

"TB and Covid primarily affect lungs. As far as tuberculosis is concerned, Covid and TB are not directly interlinked but on the basis of scientific elucidation like any other chronic disease, one is at the higher risk of Covid's severity, especially those patients with structural damage," Shiba Kalyan Biswal, Consultant, Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Narayana Hospital, Gurugram told IANS.

Biswal informed that as per WHO's estimate between 2020 and 2025 an additional 1.4 million TB deaths could be registered as direct consequence of the Covid pandemic.

"Talking about my own experience till date, around 0.2 per cent to 0.5 per cent TB patients were infected with Covid. Hence both the diseases need equal attention and should be dealt with a serious approach," he said.

TB remains one of the world's deadliest infectious killers. Each day, nearly 4,000 lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.

"According to estimates by the WHO, there are over 10 million new cases in the world. It also added that the pandemic is larger than previously estimated, owing to data from India. 60 per cent of TB cases are concentrated in six countries. India Leads the pack, closely followed by Indonesia and China, while Nigeria, Pakistan are not far behind. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is particularly hard to treat using medicines that are currently available in the market," said Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.

"Tuberculosis is a contagious bacterial infection that affects the lungs and can spread to other parts of the body such as the brain and spine. The disease spreads from one person to another through the air when an infected person coughs, speaks or sings. People with HIV infection and or other immunocompromised health conditions; who became infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years and/or not treated correctly for TB in the past; those who inject illegal drugs; babies, young children, and the elderly; are at a higher risk of getting infected," Piyush Goel, Senior Consultant- Pulmonary and Critical Care, Columbia Asia Hospital, Palam Vihar, Gurugram told IANS.

The doctor said Detection of TB in the early stages is key to prevention and better treatment outcomes. However, in the past one year, Covid-19 has dealt a serious blow to the screening exercise -- as per a recent report, TB notifications in India declined 70 per cent between 10th and 15th week last year.

"The WHO is correct in determining this year's theme as 'The Clock is Ticking' -- there is an urgent need to address the lag that happened due to Covid-19. TB is is treated with antibiotics while multi drug resistant (MDR) and also with a 6-drug regimen," he added.

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