Controlling tuberculosis is a success story both the NDA and UPA can crow about. Death from TB has dropped from 29 per cent to 4 per cent — an over 7-fold decrease — and cure rates have risen from 25 per cent to 86 per cent over the past decade, says India’s tuberculosis report 2009.
Over 1.9 million of the world’s 9.1 million people with TB live in India, but Multidrug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) is not increasing, said the report named the Revised National TB Control Programme Annual Report 2009. “Statewide community-based surveys in Gujarat and Maharashtra have shown that MDR-TB prevalence is about 3 per cent in new cases and 12-17 per cent in re-treatment cases. These surveys also indicate that MDR-TB prevalence is not increasing,” said a health ministry official, who did not want to be quoted.
One in three people in the world are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, but in most people, the infection remains latent. But in people with compromised or weak immunity, such as malnourished people and those with HIV/AIDS, the bacterium causes tuberculosis.
What is worrying is that many patients do not display the classic symptoms of TB, such as a racking cough accompanied by sputum. In most cases, the symptoms are weight loss, loss of appetite and low-grade fever and doctors have to rely on X-ray for diagnosis. “Anyone with weight loss and low-grade fever that lasts for over a month should get screened for TB,” said Dr J. N. Pande, senior consultant in internal medicine, Sitaram Bhartia Institute.