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World Tuberculosis Day: India has the highest burden

India reported more than 2.5 million cases in 2021--a quarter of of the cases worldwide

Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. (Pexels/Towfiqu barbhuiya)
Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. (Pexels/Towfiqu barbhuiya)

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Tuberculosis (TB) epidemic began in 1882 with the discovery of the bacterium that causes it. The infectious disease that affects the lungs, is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis the second biggest infectious killer after Covid. In 2021, 10.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.6 million succumbed to it, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Every year, 24 March is marked as a day to take stock of progress and create awareness about the disease. This year’s theme is 'Yes! We can end TB!', which “aims to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration” to combat the epidemic, according to WHO.

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TB is spread from person to person through the air. For instance, when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air, according to WHO. This is a curable and preventative disease. People who are infected with HIV are 16 times more likely to develop active TB.

Some of the common symptoms of active lung TB are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats, according to WHO. It’s important to note that the disease is curable and preventable. Since 2000, 74 million lives saved by global efforts to end TB. 

More than 80% of TB cases have been recorded in low and middle-income countries, highlighting the crucial role that social determinants play in its incidence. India has the highest burden of TB, with more than 2.5 million cases in 2021, which is about one-fourth of the cases worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2021, more than half a million people in India died from TB. The Indian government has set an ambitious goal to end TB by 2025. 

During the End TB summit held in New Delhi in 2018, the Prime Minister announced a TB-related SDG target by 2025. For the first time in nearly two decades in 2022, WHO reported an increase in the number of people falling ill with the disease and drug-resistant TB, along with an increase in death, reported Mint.

“TB is preventable, treatable and curable, and yet this ancient scourge that has afflicted humanity for millennia continues to cause suffering and death for millions every year," Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said.

This year, the Indian government has launched TB-Mukh Panchayat initiative, a pan-India rollout of a shorter preventive treatment and family-centric care model. 

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