World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24 every year to help spread awareness about the disease, communicate prevention measures as well as to commemorate efforts undertaken against the disease.
The date was earmarked due to the discovery of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacterium, which is the main cause of TB, by German microbiologist Dr Robert Koch in 1882, when the disease had much of Europe and America under its grip. At the 100th anniversary of the discovery, in 1982, the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) suggested that the day be observed as World Tuberculosis Day.
The 2018 theme for World Tuberculosis Day is “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-Free World. We can make history. End TB”, which highlights the importance of engaging people from all across the world to put efforts to eliminate TB.
Dr Gyanendra Agrawal, senior consultant, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Jaypee Hospital, Noida and Dr Unmil Shah, consultant pulmonology, SL Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mumbai talks about the main causes and treatments of the air-borne disease.
*Coughing that lasts for two or more weeks.
*Coughing up blood.
*Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss.
*Fever, chills, night sweats and fatigue.
Although TB is a serious disease, it is curable. It can occur in almost every part of the body — the most commonly affected areas being lungs, lymph nodes, intestine, bone and brain. Early diagnosis is crucial for the treatment of TB. The patient needs to follow a thorough line of treatment with regular follow-ups with the concerned doctor to cure TB completely.
The treatment depends on the type of tuberculosis — whether it is a drugged resistance TB or a scientific TB. So firstly, a correct diagnosis is required and the treatment and the duration of the treatment are planned accordingly, says Dr Shah.
The treatment usually consists of a combination of TB drugs that must be taken for at least six months, says Dr Agrawal. TB bacteria die very slowly, hence the drugs have to be taken for quite a few months. Chest X-ray is necessary if the coughing lasts for more than 2 weeks. The government provides free sputum examination for TB.
He further adds, Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) should be given to patients diagnosed with tuberculosis. He recommends covering the mouth with a tissue while coughing, sneezing or laughing as it is highly contagious.
According to Dr Agrawal, TB is one of the top ten causes of death worldwide, with almost 2 million people dying per year. Not only national governments, but organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) are making significant efforts to end TB. India accounts for about a quarter of the global TB burden. In 2017, about 14,840 new TB patients were witnessed in India.