India launches national TB prevalence survey
After at least 60 years, India on Wednesday launched a national tuberculosis (TB) prevalence survey to know the exact disease burden in the country.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan flagged off a state-of-the-art van that will be used to screen nearly 500,000 people in 625 districts across the country.
“There are still about 5.5 lakh (550,000) TB patients that remain unidentified, and our aim is to identify those and put them on treatment. The central government is providing all necessary tools to states to tackle the disease,” said Harsh Vardhan.
In all, 25 such vans will be used to conduct the prevalence survey that will take about six months.
“It is after a gap of many years that a survey is being conducted to know the exact TB burden in the country. After six months we hope to get national and state level data on the prevalence that will help strengthen the TB programme,” said Dr KS Sachdeva, deputy director general, Central TB Division.
The ministry is also making efforts to include 83 other districts in the survey. The estimated TB incidence (new infections) in India is 2.7 million.
India aims to eliminate the disease by 2025, and with improvisations to its revised national tuberculosis control programme (RNTCP), the health ministry managed to increase TB notifications by 17% in 2018 that has been the highest so far.
In 2018, 2.15 million TB cases were reported to the government, compared to 1.8 million in 2017. The notifications from private sector healthcare providers reached 540,000, an increase of 40%, contributing to 25% of all TB notifications.
The new figures were released as part of the India TB Report 2019.
“The annual rate for TB notifications would go up by 3-4% earlier but the percentage has gone up significantly after we made notification mandatory and strengthened the diagnostic network among other things,” said Vikas Sheel, joint secretary, health ministry.
The Central TB Division, which manages the RNTCP, also launched an “accelerator to national strategic plan” to improve and expand the reach of TB care services by 2022.
The ministry also launched all-oral drug regimen to treat multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB that will put MDR patients off harmful injectible drugs.
“We have been ensuring that the treatment is made shorter and simpler for the patients with minimum side-effects. All oral regimen should help patients,” said Sheel.