World Tuberculosis Day is observed to indicate the progress made in the fight against the disease and to progress on the commitment to eradicate the epidemic. It is also a day to spread awareness about the fact that tuberculosis is not merely a health disorder but also a social issue since malnutrition and poverty also promote to spread of the ailment.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus is spread through the air. TB is more common in people with weakened immune systems, such as those living with HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, or diabetes.
India has made significant efforts to tackle TB over the years, including through the implementation of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) in 1997. The RNTCP has since been replaced by the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) in 2017, which aims to eliminate TB in India by 2025.
The Government of India has said it aims to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by 2025. In a strict sense, TB elimination means there should be <1 case of TB for a population of 10 lacks. The World Health Organization (WHO) END TB Strategy adopted by World Health Assembly in 2014 aims to end the global TB epidemic with a target to reduce TB deaths by 95% and to cut new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035 and to ensure that no family is burdened with catastrophic expense due to TB.
In a country like India, a huge population and overcrowding in multiple places leave us the biggest challenge to curb this disease. On this world TB day, we wish to create awareness and want to make leaders at the level of community or even at the household level. Every society should appoint a leader who assesses the symptoms of the sick and encourages them to take the tests as early as possible to start treatment. Under national programs, treatment is provided free of cost and additional financial help is also given by the government.
Each one should know about the symptoms of cough for more than two weeks, loss of appetite, and loss of weight as indicators of tuberculosis and should report to their doctor and get tested. Another challenge is the stigma related to this disease where people are not comfortable accepting the diagnosis or are isolated by the community once diagnosed. Such practices should be discouraged, and it should be considered an offense to stigmatize any patient. We need to ensure good ventilation in our houses and avoid overcrowded localities strictly to stop the spread. The government should aim to start more and more dedicated tuberculosis hospitals to serve the huge population. Schools and colleges should play an important role in creating awareness about tuberculosis among the youth of the society who can be the future leaders to devise better plans to eliminate tuberculosis.
It is important that we understand that tuberculosis is a curable disease and if diagnosed at an early stage, ensures faster recovery. In this era of artificial intelligence, we should put the robot to our use to serve this huge population at a personalized level and ensure full treatment support to the needy. Let us pledge to play our role sincerely to “END TB”.
We have a 102-year-old vaccine, BCG, against tuberculosis, which hardly protects against disease in adolescents and adults. Hence the need arises for a better and more effective vaccine for the future.
Dr. Honey Savla
Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central