Is Tuberculosis Still A Deadly Disease In India?

Posted on July 12, 2012 in Health and Life

By Sirisha Akshinthala:

In olden days TB was considered as a deadly disease due to lack of medicines and proper treatment at that time. Hence, the person who underwent tuberculosis never recovered from it. But if we come across the present scenario, even though TB has the curable medication, yet it is a deadly disease in India when it comes to reaching the affected patients. Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem. India shares over 1/5th of total global TB cases. Health statistics of National TB control programme reports that around 1000 Indians die due to the disease every day, 3 per minute, and 15 lakh new cases of are reported every year.

What actually is TB?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis. This virus is a close relative of leprosy. Contrary to leprosy and Buruli ulcer, tuberculosis is a deadly disease: once broken out, it leads to death of over half of the affected people. Most people who are infected do not suffer any symptoms, but 10% of infections progress to the active disease and commonly attacks the lungs.

Symptoms of this disease:

Actually the symptoms of TB are seen in advanced stages and are very common symptoms which mislead us to think of it as a common disorder in body. Here are a few of them
– Cough with sputum more than two weeks: This happens when mucus is generated in lungs and one may think it is just a cough and will be cured soon. But the story is it is not.
– Loss of weight: This is a symptom found in most of the diseases and a common health issue.
– Low grade fever
– Loss of appetite
– Chest pain

Poverty, the root cause of Tuberculosis in India

Tuberculosis can be found all over the world —but in India to a very large extent. However, the disease spreads particularly among people, whose immune forces are weakened. In a country like India the poor with weak immunity are largely affected. Most of the tuberculosis patients are poor and it is also known as “poor man’s deadly disease”. The affected regions are most often the African and Asian countries. Lack of proper immune system is due to lack of healthy food and in turn, due to poverty. But it doesn’t mean that rich people cannot be affected by this. Medical causes include inhalation of polluted air and consumption of contaminated and polluted food. But once again it all depends on the immunity of an individual. Tuberculosis patients are soon too weak to carry out any work. If they are the providers of a family, the loss of manpower leads to poverty. In this way, the vicious circle is completed: tuberculosis causes poverty and this poverty causes a fresh outbreak of the disease.

Treatment: It is curable yet dangerous

Drug therapy is the treatment of choice. The drugs including antibiotics make treatment at home possible. By taking these antibiotics for six to nine months the original form of disease can be cured. But if the treatment is interrupted or the dose is cut down, the bacteria will battle back by mutating. It starts rejuvenating again into a more deadly form which can no longer be killed by standard drugs making it harder and a more expensive treatment. It’s simple “stitch in time saves nine”; we must take proper medication on time or else it may lead to death.

Coming to the olden days, the prevention and treatment was started long back in India. TB has been mentioned in the Vedas and the old Ayurvedic scriptures too. Historically speaking, the fight against TB in India can be broadly classified into three periods:

1. Early period: Where there were nothing like x-ray and chemotherapy.
2. Post-independence period: This was a time for change and improvement where nationwide TB control programs were initiated and implemented.
3. The current period: The time in which WHO-assisted TB control program is on

Conclusion: Yes, TB is still a deadly disease in India as it is still in existence. It is not eradicated like Polio. Even though it has medication, it is not a solution as reaching the patients in the right time is what matters. The only positive sign is that World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken proper care to eradicate TB with the “STOP TB” project. We can witness our country without TB in not less than 20 years from now, according to medical researches and WHO. On the whole, we have come a long way in our fight against this deadly disease, but as the famous English poet Robert Frost said, “… miles to go before I sleep”, we still have miles to go before we will make India TB free.