Updated: January 30, 2022 7:22:45 am
Tuberculosis (TB) has taken a toll on women amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Mumbai. Data from BMC shows that compared to pre-pandemic times, more women are contracting tuberculosis than men at present. While the TB infection rate among women increased by 12 per cent between 2020 and 2021, the infection rate among men dropped by 7 per cent.
During pre-pandemic years, more men contracted TB than women, as per the data. In 2018, of the total diagnosed 57,031 TB patients, 29,371 were men and 27,448 women. Next year, of the 60,597 TB patients, 31,160 were men and 29,214 women.
However, when the pandemic started in 2020, the infection rate among women increased gradually. In 2020, 43,464 patients were diagnosed with TB, of which 21,162 were men and 22,053 women. The infection rate among women increased further in 2021, when 31,237 women contracted TB against 27,375 men among the 58,642 diagnosed TB patients in Mumbai.
This sudden change in gender-wise infection rate has also surprised public health officials. During lockdown, due to restrictions on movement, family members had to spend their days in congested rooms along with TB patients. Many women facing low immunity due to anemia, repeated deliveries or undernourishment, contracted TB from the infected patients.
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Chest physician Dr Vikas Oswal, who practises in the M-East ward that covers Govandi, and is also attached to the civic-run Shatabdi Hospital, has seen a 20 per cent surge in TB infection among women last year.
“During the lockdown, families were financially struggling… the in-take of nutritious food decreased especially among women. Many women already suffer from anemia, which further weakens their immunity. This made them easy targets of TB bacteria in congested chawls,” said Oswal. “Generally, we get more number of male patients. This is a new trend that we are witnessing now,” he added.
Due to the delay in diagnosis, many women are being diagnosed with advanced stages of the infection. “With the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, we are getting a large number of female patients with severe TB infection, leading to health complications,” said Oswal.
The BMC health officials, who are studying the reason for the change in infection pattern, said that due to the fear of contracting Covid-19, TB patients avoided visiting hospitals and the women in the households became the primary caregivers. “As per our observations, most of the women infected with TB recently were taking care of active patients in their houses and ended up infecting themselves,” said Dr Pranita Tipre, in charge of TB department of the BMC.
Doctors have raised the need for a clinical study that will be essential to establish the concrete causes behind this trend.
Additional stress caused by emotional and financial burden, long working hours and undetected Covid-19 infection is also likely to have suppressed the immunity of women, believe doctors. “TB is known to stay dormant and spread vigorously when immunity is compromised. Prima facie, these factors may have collectively caused infections among women, as compared to men,” said Dr Hemlata Arora, Senior Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Nanavati Hospital.
Further, the data shows that TB detection has dropped drastically among transgender community during the pandemic. In 2018, 48 transgenders were identified with TB infection, which increased to 64 the next day year. In 2020, it dropped by 45 per cent to 26 and increased marginally to 30 in 2021.
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