World Tuberculosis Day

Debunking Myths About Global Tuberculosis

In the Planet’s second most populous country, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that 40% Indians carry Tuberculosis (TB) bacteria; the number so high that out of the 9 million people living with tuberculosis across the globe, 2 million cases are reported from our country itself.

Sadly, lack of awareness about this disease has shown the path for superstitions and myths. Whenever a TB patient is identified, he/she is immediately treated as an outcast in the name of contagiousness.

As we are set to observe World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, let us check out unknown facts about the disease:

1. TB is curable. However, WHO says, due to lack of awareness over 5,000 people die every day of this disease.

2. Mostly youths, especially those malnourished, succumb to this disease.

3. TB acts as the last nail in the coffin for people with HIV/AIDS/weak immune system.

4. One-third of world’s population carries the microbes of TB. But only 1 out of 10 will fall sick due to TB in his/her lifetime.

5. TB is contagious. Period. But only when not treated will it kill 10-15 individuals on an average every year.

6. TB isn’t a heredity disease and need not run in the family. Rather it spreads via the air and the bacteria enters the lungs of any person who inhales this infected air.

7. TB does not always affect the poor. Even Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan contracted tuberculosis in 2000.

8. It is a myth that anyone who comes in contact with a TB patient becomes one soon. Only pulmonary or lung tuberculosis is infectious.

An ancient disease that has claimed many millions of lives, tuberculosis continues to wreak havoc on public health in many countries in this century.

Fast forward to recent decades and another pandemic has claimed more than 30 million, mostly young lives and today at least another 30 million people live with HIV — an incurable, although treatable infection.

Currently there is no effective TB vaccine. The standard TB medicines are more than 50 years old and require at least six months of use.

Treating multi-drug resistant TB is even longer, involves injections and is arduous. And the most widely used diagnostic test requires a person to search for TB germs through a microscope, using the naked eye.

Interrupting transmissions will need a better understanding of where and how TB is transmitted with sufficient resources to intervene where needed to the scale required to have an impact.

Many developed regions of the world have done this and have driven back the ravages of TB as a generalized epidemic.