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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fight with TB

World TB Day raises awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease. One-third of the world's population is currently infected with TB. The Stop TB Partnership, a network of organizations and countries fighting TB, organizes the Day to highlight the scope of the disease and how to prevent and cure it.

The annual event on 24 March marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch detected the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. This was a first step towards diagnosing and curing tuberculosis.

1. By maintaining good health and immunity, you can prevent getting infected with tuberculosis. Nutritious food, adequate sleep, exercise and leading a life with minimal stress go a long way in helping our immunity fight any infection well including TB. Have at least 4-5 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits everyday. If you cannot have it due to certain practical constraints, make sure you take your daily dose of antioxidants/multivitamins after consulting your doctor. Anti-oxidants help fight free radicals produced in the body due to any kind of disease/stress and help in cell repair.

2. Fresh air and sunlight can help prevent TB. The microbes in TB thrive in cold, damp places. Whether you are at home or office, remember to open all your windows for a major portion of the day to let the sunlight and air in.

3. Tuberculosis primarily affects the lungs but can affect other organs too. Cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks, streaks of blood in the sputum (phlegm), low-grade fever, difficulty in breathing and unexplained weight loss are the commonest symptoms of TB of the lungs. TB of other organ systems present with varied symptoms. For example: TB of the skin could present with a non healing ulcer, TB of the spine could present with backache, stiffness or even swelling in the back/groin, TB of the intestine should present with abdominal distension and absolute constipation. Even a non-healing anal fistula could be due to TB. TB of the lymph nodes can present with swellings at multiple sites of the body. TB of the covering of the brain and spinal cord can cause TB Meningitis, especially in children.

4. TB is a fully treatable disease if the full course of medications is taken properly and regular follow-ups are done with the doctor. The TB control program in India, was started as RNTCP (Revised national tuberculosis control program) in 1993. The program has made great progress over the last two decades. Having collaborated with private hospitals and medical colleges the reach of the program is 100% in India. The mainstay of the program is prompt diagnosis (by sputum testing and X ray of the chest), commencing the treatment as early as possible and making sure that the patient is compliant with the treatment (Directly observed treatment-DOTS). The main drugs used for TB are Isoniazid, Rifampicin, Pyrazinamide, Ethambutol and Streptomycin. But always take these medicines under the doctor’s supervision because indiscriminate use can lead to jaundice and liver failure, kidney failure. The duration of the treatment varies from case to case and is at least for 6 months. Testing and treatment is available free of cost at all government hospitals, primary and community health centers.

5. Not taking the full course of TB medicines as per the doctor’s prescription is one of the major hurdles faced by the TB prevention programs. It can lead to the organisms developing resistance to the first-line drugs used in treatment causing MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant TB).

6. Multi-drug resistant TB does not respond to standard TB drugs is difficult and costly to treat. The MDR-TB prevalence is estimated to be 2.3 per cent among new cases and 12-17 per cent among re-treatment cases. One of the best ways to prevent it is by completing the entire course of anti-TB drugs in the dosages prescribed by the doctor.

7. Children including babies can suffer from TB, but often go undiagnosed. According to the WHO, around half a million babies and children get ill with TB every year and 70000 die due to it. Children under three years of age, especially those who are malnourished and with compromised immune systems are particularly prone to the disease. However, the symptoms often go unnoticed causing higher mortality rates. To prevent TB in children, get them immunized with the BCG vaccine soon after birth. People in your family, including house-help, who would come in close contact with the children need to be screened. Also, breastfeeding the baby for at least six months increases their immunity against all infections including TB.


Around 95% of the deaths due to TB occur in the developing world. The number of people who died from TB was 1.4 million in 2010, including 350,000 people with HIV equal to 3800 deaths a day. In India, 2 patients succumb every three minutes to this disease. Even though the nations are putting in their best efforts to control this disease, mortality has been increasing. What make it worse are the new drug resistant forms of TB that are now rearing their head. On World TB day 2012, we bring you some facts about TB you should know:

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