World Health Organisation and various healthcare institutes, as well as individuals, observe 24th March as “World Tuberculosis (T.B.) Day” to create awareness about the disease and extend their support to infected people across the globe. The theme for the year 2020 is “It’s Time to End T.B.”. While the world battles the deadly new coronavirus, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. As per the best estimate, globally 10 million people developed TB out of which 27% were from India. There were new 27,90,000 cases in India alone in 2016. Also, the mortality rate of the new coronavirus is less than 1% as compared to the mortality rate for untreated active T.B. cases which is up to 66%. Although Covid-19 pandemic has erupted as a grave reminder of how an infection can travel across the globe, tuberculosis is the real threat killing a person every 21 seconds. In other words, we can call it the first global pandemic that killed around 1.5 million people in 2018 alone.
Currently, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India has taken some quick measures across the country to control the spread of Covid-19, including a nationwide appeal by Prime Minister Modi to follow Janta Curfew and lockdown of public transport till 31st March 2020. However, the ministry is equally focused on T.B. and has developed an ambitious National Strategic Plan 2017-25 for the elimination of the disease. Various measures taken by Government include free diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis cases, health education measures and active case findings. What’s important for us is to understand how different T.B. may be from recent Coronavirus or for that matter, how effective role can the preventive measures play in both the diseases. In either scenario, no government programme can succeed without active participation from people.
Following infographic lists down the major issues which create hurdles in Tuberculosis control in India. On closely understanding them, one might realise how well-connected these are to the recent outbreak of coronavirus.
Despite all the above difficulties, the general public and TB or Covid-19 patients can help the Government in TB and Covid-19 control?
- Early Detection: One mustseek medical help or encourage others to do so when there are symptoms such as chronic cough lasting more than 3 weeks, blood in sputum, chest pain, fever, night sweats, loss of weight, loss of appetite and fatigue in case of T.B. Patient with Covid-19 experience running nose, dry cough, sore throat, high fever headache and heaviness in breathing as symptoms of the disease. Early detection and treatment are highly effective in controlling the spread of both diseases. Family members and near contacts of TB and Covid-19 patients should also be screened.
- Prevention: Every TB and Covid-19 patient must be counselled to isolate themselves to avoid the spread of it to others. Those not infected by the diseases must maintain social distance with infected ones in case of Covid-19. However, it can equally work well for people taking precaution from T.B. patients as regions with T.B. infected people witness a rise in the number of new T.B. cases in general across the world.
- Civic sense: Follow common precautions such as covering the mouth while coughing or sneezing. Do not spit on roads or in public. Wash your hands thoroughly after a visit from outside to keep your loved ones away from infection.
- Diet: Adequate nutrition plays an important role in recovery as it boosts the immunity system which fights against the infection. People with good immunity are recovering from Covid-19 too. So, a person suffering from TB or Covid-19 should consume a well balanced and nutritious diet consisting of adequate carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Our Indian diet of rice, dal, roti, vegetables including green leafy vegetables, salads and fruits is adequate. Besides, follow the advice of your doctor regarding the diet.
- Lifestyle changes: The TB or Covid-19 patient should ensure that she/he gets adequate sleep, drinks adequate water and strictly avoids alcohol, smoking, tobacco or narcotic drugs. If the patient has any associated illness such as diabetes or HIV, it should be treated adequately. Adopting a healthy lifestyle even in non-infected individuals enhances immunity thus contributing to TB and Covid-19 control.
- BCG Vaccine: Ensure each new-born child is administered BCG vaccine within the first month after birth as it helps in improving the immunity of the child to fight the bacteria and viruses like T.B. and Covid-19.
- Public Awareness: Awareness in the general public should be enhanced through print media, television, posters, pamphlets, social media, etc. It is equally important that the source of information is authentic for the public to stay updated and healthy enough to fight deadly diseases like Tuberculosis and Coronavirus. Every individual must keep themselves away from any kind of rumours specifically about Coronavirus as it is a new and less known disease to us and any misleading information can create havoc among public.
Like Tuberculosis, Covid-19 is also curable. Concerted efforts of all stakeholders such as general public, patients and their family members, health professionals, health care institutions, government, lawmakers, media and NGOs will help the Government of India to achieve its ambitious goal of TB eradication by 2025 and spread of Covid-19 from entering the 3rd stage in India. So, let’s pledge our allegiance to the Government of India to follow their guidelines aimed at fighting these two deadly diseases. Also, stay alert in reporting severe health issues around us by connecting to emergency medical assistance from healthcare organisations like Ziqitza Healthcare for the greater good of the nation. This Word Tuberculosis Day, let’s unite and quarantine ourselves to stop Covid-19 from becoming another ‘Tuberculosis’.
Author: Dr. Santosh Datar, Medical Director, Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd (ZHL)