- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Lessons from COVID-19 for TB Control
Context: The WHO reports that there are more than 10 million active TB cases in India. The country loses more than 4,00,000 lives every year due to TB (COVID-19 Pandemic resulted 1,54,000 deaths over one-year period).
Tuberculosis is a social disease because of following reasons
- Due to overcrowding and malnutrition, it disproportionately affects the poor and the marginalised.
- The stigma and myths associated with this disease lead to underreporting and under-diagnosis.
- The long-drawn multi-drug treatment leads to poor compliance and drug-resistance, which hamper recovery.
- Complications increase with a pre-existing illness like diabetes or co-infection with HIV.
- Finally, the chronic nature of the disease and propensity to damage multiple organs increase mortality risk.
The lessons learned during the COVID-19 battle can do a lot in controlling TB i.e. Community driven efforts can help government’s target of TB-free India by 2025
- Since TB spreads through droplets of infected persons, physical distancing can reduce disease transmission.
- Patients with TB must wear a mask to prevent the spread of infection, and persons in the patient’s regular contact should wear a mask for self-protection.
- Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to success. One should use new diagnostic techniques that gives rapid and ultraprecise results compared to the traditional sputum test.
- Finally, instant case notification helps in better case tracking and contact monitoring.
- The fight against COVID-19 has led to increased awareness of respiratory infections, which may help remove the stigma associated with TB.
- India’s efforts to contain the coronavirus succeeded due to improved coordination among central and state governments and innovative media campaigns which can be replicated for TB
A successful community-driven strategy, as shown during the Swachh Bharat campaign or COVID-19 control, if dovetailed with the existing TB control programme, which provides free diagnosis and treatment, can accelerate TB elimination.