New Delhi: It's World Tuberculosis Day and India has a long way to go to tackle the disease. Two people die every three minutes in the country due to Tuberculosis, adding 1.8 million new cases every year. A preventable, curable disease which should have been eradicated 50 years ago, has turned deadlier.
One fifth of the world's tuberculosis cases are in India, a country that adds 1.8 million new TB patients every year. The disease claims 750 lives every day. The biggest danger at this point is the resurgence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
The World Health Organisation estimates 63,000 Indians already have what is called MDR TB.
Dr Zarir Udwadia , chest physician, Hinduja Hospital, says, "All of us are to blame. The very fact that this kind of TB exists, means that we have all failed as a community at a public health level, at a private level."
From April 1 this year, the Health Ministry plans to ban a popular blood test used to diagnose TB, that is often mis-leading. Seven months ago the World Health Organisation advised against its use. Health officials in the Capital observed that misdiagnosis leads to overuse of antibiotics causing drug resistance.
Ashok Kumar, Deputy Director General, TB Programme, says, "These tests do not have sensitivity. They over diagnose and under diagnose. They are unreliable and above all, private practioners are charging anywhere between Rs 800-2000. Why should we use it when we have the accurate Sputum test."
There is growing pressure to make TB a notifiable disease, which would mean private doctors would have to report every case of the air-borne disease to the government.
Dr Sanjeev Mehta, chest specialist, Lilavati Hospital, says, "The amount of logistics, to manage data of millions of patients might be tough."
And making TB a notifiable disease will be important, because doctors say that in a year, one TB patient on average can infect at least 15-20 others.