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Tuberculosis in India – The Silent Killer

As compared to the rest of the world, India’s population faces a disproportionately large number of the world’s tuberculosis patients. For the year 2011, India was ranked the country with the highest number of cases as per the statistics of WHO (World Health Organisation). Out of the 8.7 million patients globally, 2.2 million of them resided in our country.

As of 2013, 25% of all people diagnosed from Tuberculosis could be found in India. The disease is caused by the bacterium ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’.

There are two types of TB – Active and Inactive.

Active is where the symptoms of TB start developing and become visible within a short period of time, whereas Inactive TB means that even though the bacteria resides within the patient, they are unaware of it because it hasn’t become active yet and has not displayed any alarming symptoms.

Active TB leads to more serious issues because it can affect the functioning of almost any part of the body – bones, kidney, nodes, joints etc. However, it occurs mostly in the lungs.

People with weak immune systems are easy targets for this bacterium, which is why babies and the elderly are more susceptible to being infected with it. The infection spreads through the air sacs and into the lungs, infecting the immune system on its way.

Its symptoms include:

  • Constant fatigue or exhaustion
  • Fever
  • Pain in the chest
  • Night sweat
  • Coughing which lasts longer than 15 days
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Reduction or loss of appetite

In order to control the spreading of this disease, it becomes imperative to get treatment as quickly as possible and getting a green signal from your doctor. Bacterial infections can easily be terminated with antibiotics, which is why TB patients are seen carrying with them medicines like rifampin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide.

The entire course (time period) of the treatment for TB can last for years. In India, however, The TB that prevails has evolved to the point where it can resist normal antibiotic treatment like XDR-TB and TDR-TB. As a result of this, a combination of two or more medicines is taken (depending upon the severity of the infection) to ensure complete destruction of the bacteria.

India’s Tuberculosis control program has not updated itself to the international Tuberculosis guidelines, neither has it provided the most effective treatments to TB patients enrolled in that program.

Despite the medicines for TB being easily available across the country, the disease still continues to infect and kill lakhs of people on a yearly basis. Also, a huge number of cases simply go undetected because of a lack of information among the masses as well as the lack of properly equipped health care providers.

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