New Delhi: According to a study, India has the highest burden of TB globally, and the disease is responsible for killing about 480,000 people every year and more than 1400 every day in the country. WHO states that a total of 1.6 million people died from TB in 2021 (including 187 000 people with HIV). Globally, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 (above HIV/AIDS).
TB is spread from person to person via the air. When infected people cough, sneeze or spit, they release TB germs into the air. Anyone who inhales even a few of these germs can become infected.
Dr. Vishal Rao, Fellow – Royal Society of Medicine (London), Director at Head Neck Surgical Oncology & Robotic Surgery, HealthCare Global Cancer Centre shares, “In India, where we have about 3.1 million tuberculosis patients and approximately 2000 patients diagnosed with TB yearly, TB awareness becomes a very prudent and vital approach to prioritize. TB has been prevalent in our country for a long time, and over the last few years, many systems have been put in place to deal with this communicable disease.”
Symptoms of TBAccording to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of TB depend upon where the TB germs are growing within the body. Dr Vishal shares, “The symptoms of TB in the lungs include cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks, loss of appetite, chest pain, fever, weakness or fatigue, among others. In the case of TB in some other body part, the symptoms would be different. For example, TB of the kidney would lead to blood in the urine, TB of the spine would lead to back pain, and so on.”
Dr Pujan Parikh, consultant, pulmonary Medicine Department, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai elaborates, “TB symptoms are divided into generalized and organ specific. Generalized symptoms include low grade evening rise fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue. Apart from cough, pulmonary symptoms include chest pain, breathing difficulty, and blood in sputum. Other organ specific symptoms are- in the brain, TB patients often get seizures, drowsiness, headache, vomiting, paralysis, stroke. Spine TB sometimes presents as a persistent backache, sometimes can lead to paralysis as well. Similarly chronic joint pain is often one of the symptoms of joint TB. Swelling of lymph nodes around the neck can be seen in cervical lymph node tuberculosis. Abdominal pain, fluid accumulation in the abdomen are certain symptoms of abdominal TB. Different types of skin lesion can be seen in skin TB, blurring of vision can occur in eye TB.
TB is the most common cause of infertility in females in India. Irregular periods, infertility are symptoms of genital TB in females. Breathing difficulty and palpitations are seen in cardiac TB. Chest pain, breathing difficulty can occur when a patient suffers from pleurisy (fluid accumulation in between layers around lungs).
How to identify a TB coughTB cough normally produces green or yellow phlegm since it’s mixed with bacteria. Sometimes TB cough can also be accompanied by blood spots, while you will never see blood in regular cough with phlegm. TB patients suddenly develop a fairly severe cough, which can transmit the disease to others. Also, it’s important to note the accompanying symptoms that appear with the cough.
India’s fight against TBToday, India faces a herculean task to keep up with its commitment made in 2014 to WHO on eliminating tuberculosis nationwide by 2030. For this, the Government of India has introduced community engagement programs, providing a platform for the community to have their voices heard, their views considered and acknowledged.
Youth has become a major target groupDr. Vishal Rao adds, “TB and tobacco use are two significant public health challenges that independently cause considerable health and economic burden in the country. Considering India is also the second-largest consumer of tobacco globally, evidence-based mass media campaigns at the national and state level that integrate TB and tobacco messaging, highlighting the risk association between tobacco use and TB, is an important step towards TB eradication. Campaigns that highlight tobacco’s deadly harms and promote healthy behaviours, prompt attempts to quit, prevent youth initiation and create a supportive environment for policy change, will contribute to TB control as well. Investing in evidence-based campaigns, message testing, media plan, and sustaining them within the Government’s TB programs as well in addition to the national tobacco control program are some of the strategic interventions that can help the cause.”
“People from Higher Income Groups more often consume high sugar food, tobacco in terms of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and hookah. Owing to tobacco consumption, the youth has become one of the major target groups. Smoking significantly advances the risk of TB and death from TB. Cigarette smoking and tobacco consumption among the youth has been on the rise. Moreover, the coming in of new products such as flavoured E-cigarettes have lured youngsters into using these. They often equate quitting smoking by replacing cigarettes with the use of E-cigarettes and hookahs, but all products are as harmful. They are, therefore, exposing themselves to a greater risk of TB infection. The occurrence of TB has been shown to be linked to altered immune response and multiple defects in immune cells,” he adds.