Mumbai: Four months after Mumbai's premier Hinduja hospital reported 12 cases of "Totally Drug Resistant TB", the hospital has reported 2 new cases. The bad news is that the state health department remains in denial.
Nearly 1,000 Indians die of tuberculosis every day, and the biggest threat at this point is the Totally Drug Resistant TB - incurable, and highly contagious.
A fifth of the total TB deaths in the world take place in the country. In 2009, TB killed nearly 4 lakh Indians.
Doctors in Hinduja hospital say they are giving "salvage treatment" to the two Mumbaikars diagnosed with the highly contagious TB, to prolong their life as best as they can.
But the situation is grim. Three of the 12 people diagnosed earlier with this kind of TB, are almost on their death bed.
The Maharashtra state government has consistently downplayed the threat, bringing it down to semantics - saying it is extensively drug resistant, not Totally Drug Resistant.
In a statement released, the Mahashtra TB department said, "The term 'totally drug resistant' does not exist medically. A span of a few months is too premature to decide that a patient will not respond to any treatment.
And yet, doctors disagree. Dr Zarir F Udwadia , Chest Physician at Hinduja Hospital, says, "All of us are to blame. The very fact that this kind of TB exists, means we have all failed as a community at a public health level, at a private level.. At a public health level, while DOTS is being a great success, it turns its back on multi drug resistance. On the private side, one of our studies showed that prescriptions are very poor.. wrong doses are given, wrong drugs, this again serves to amplify the problem."
One TB patient on average can infect 15-20 others in a year. This is a problem the government cannot afford to wish away.