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Post-Covid TB: Karnataka health department strives to close gaps in screening, treatment

As many as 218 cases of tuberculosis have been reported among Covid-recovered individuals or their close contacts in the state so far.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
Updated: September 22, 2021 7:41:03 am
As per data accessed by The Indian Express from the Department of Health and Family Welfare Services, 133 people who have recovered from Covid-19 and 85 household contacts of such people have tested positive for TB across the state till September 20 | Representational image

With as many as 218 Covid-recovered individuals or their close contacts having been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) in the state, the Karnataka Health Department is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring timely treatment to such patients. It has also extended screening to avoid another related outbreak of infections.

As per data accessed by The Indian Express from the Department of Health and Family Welfare Services, 133 people who have recovered from Covid-19 and 85 household contacts of such people have tested positive for TB across the state till September 20.

“Even though such cases are not life-threatening for most people, regular follow-up is imperative. With more data on the country’s first such door-to-door survey coming in on a daily basis, our officials at the taluka and Primary Health Centre levels are ensuring that treatment is offered to TB patients at the earliest,” said State Joint Director (TB) Dr Ramesh Chandra Reddy.

He added that the use of steroids for Covid treatment was found to have triggered the infection in nearly 60 to 70 per cent of the cases identified so far. “Both Covid and TB require early detection and treatment to improve patient outcomes and to reduce the pace of transmission among contacts and within communities,” Dr Reddy explained.

Earlier in August, Health Minister K Sudhakar had launched a state-wide surveillance drive to evaluate post-Covid complications including TB. The drive was expected to cover over 80 lakh people, including individuals who recovered from Covid and their household contacts. “There are more than 28 lakh people in the state who have recovered from the infection. Since both Covid-19 and TB infect the lungs, we have launched this special drive to ensure early detection of TB,” he had said during the launch on August 16.

Over 7.66 lakh individuals who have recovered from Covid-19 and 25.14 lakh household contacts have been symptomatically screened for TB so far. Bengaluru tops the list of patients with post-Covid TB, counting 67 such persons, including 29 household contacts. It is followed by Ballari (26 including 16 contacts), Kalaburagi (19 including 12 contacts) and Mysore (14 including 3 contacts).

When asked about the slow progress of the drive, Dr Reddy clarified that the process was carried forward in a staggered manner. “Also, molecular diagnosis is done for samples collected from symptomatic individuals,” he noted.

Meanwhile, in Hassan – where at least twelve Covid-recovered persons were diagnosed with TB – a senior official on-field said, “ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers visit each of these homes periodically to check if their medication is on track. They collect finished medicine strips to ensure that the treatment, which goes on for six months, is completed.”

The official added that those with abnormalities suggestive of TB are also being closely watched. “Their samples are sent for NAAT testing as soon as they become symptomatic,” the official added. The shortage in the supply of CB-NAAT test kits is also cited as a reason behind the “considerable delay” in diagnosis, the official admitted.

Samples from Chikkamagalur, Chitradurga and Yadgir districts are yet to be tested, with preliminary screening still underway at PHC levels at present.

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