Recent statistics indicate that progress is being made, with decreasing incidence rates and improved treatment outcomes. (Image: DC)
India has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the world. TB, an age-old infectious disease, has continued to cast a long shadow over India's healthcare landscape. TB continues to be a taboo in Indian society. It is looked down as a heinous disease to talk about. According to the 2022 Global TB Report, India has witnessed a notable 18% decrease in tuberculosis (TB) incidence, dropping from 256 cases per 100,000 people in 2015 to 210 cases per 100,000 people in 2021. This achievement of India surpasses the global record of reduction in TB cases by 7%.
Despite significant progress in recent years, this ancient scourge remains a formidable public health challenge in India. Rahul Kadam, a Medical Counsellor from Seva Hospital, Kolhapur says the number of cases in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi are higher vis-a-vis rural areas.
Every Breath Counts
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention factsheet, TB is spread through the air from one person to another. TB germs are passed through the air when someone who is sick with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, laughs, sings, or sneezes. Anyone near the sick person with TB disease can breathe TB germs into their lungs. Precisely the reason why active TB patients are kept in isolation. "TB has been considered a stigmatic disease for centuries as it is highly contagious. But government schemes have improved over the years. They responsibly take care of the entire treatment which costs over Rs 20 lakh per patient," explains Kadam. A stressful lifestyle, poor diet, and lack of rest can make things worse.
Dr Rupali Dalvi, a Mumbai-based pulmonologist stresses the importance of emotional support from family and friends. "TB treatments begin with heavier drugs like Bedaqualine, and Linezoid, which develop painful joints and numbness. Such painful treatments can tear down the patient's will to continue with the treatment. Various side effects are the reason why many patients stop their treatment and their condition worsens. A high protein diet and a positive mindset are the key tools to overcome the TB disease," says Dr Dalvi.
India faces a growing threat of drug-resistant TB strains. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) require longer, more complex treatment regimens and pose a significant challenge to healthcare systems. The stigma associated with TB still deters many individuals from seeking treatment. Raising awareness and reducing stigma remains a crucial aspect of TB control. Sadly, TB patients often grapple with a torrent of emotions, including fear, anxiety, and even depression, primarily due to the pervasive stigma associated with the disease. Creating a positive and stress-free environment within the home environment can significantly contribute to the patient's recovery. Family members can foster an atmosphere of support and comfort that aids relaxation and accelerates the healing process.
Test, Treat, Triumph
The government has appointed doctors and medical counsellors nationwide to support individuals and families dealing with TB. The government’s Nikshay initiative aims to eradicate the disease. Reports are diligently supervised and followed up on. In addition to sponsoring TB treatments, the government also provides nutritious food grains and protein supplements to patients in need.
The Indian government, in collaboration with international organizations and non-governmental agencies, has launched numerous initiatives to combat TB: National Tuberculosis Elimination Program (NTEP) aims to detect and treat TB cases promptly, focusing on early diagnosis and providing free treatment to all TB patients. The NTEP has implemented active case-finding strategies to reach marginalized and vulnerable populations.
Accompanying the patient to medical appointments offers not only moral support but also a deeper understanding of the treatment progress. Assisting the patient in maintaining a balanced diet and incorporating regular exercise into their routine is essential for their recovery. Family members can play an active role in meal preparation, encouraging the patient to consume nutritious foods, and participating in physical activities suitable for their condition.
Recent statistics indicate that progress is being made, with decreasing incidence rates and improved treatment outcomes. However, the battle is far from over, as drug-resistant strains, stigma, and access to healthcare continue to pose formidable obstacles.