The mission TB Free India by the year 2025, launched with Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program, appears to be a distant dream. The infection, according to experts in epidemiology, is likely to increase by 20% in the next two decades.
It is estimated that about 40% of the Indian population is infected with bacteria causing tuberculosis. Major cause of spreading infection in India is spitting in open.
Although the Government has banned spitting openly, enforcement of the rule is difficult, as even those responsible for it are in a habit of chewing tobacco and spitting in open.
The Indian Government has been able to get rid of label of Leprosy Capital of the World. However, it appears that it will be difficult to remove the tag of TB Capital. Moreover, before the spread of TB could be controlled, New Coronavirus has spread its tentacles worldwide, leaving TB Control Program lower on the priority list.
In spite of planning and implementing National Tuberculosis Control Program since 1962, a very little control could be exercised. The program was revised in 1993 for implementation in phased manner to cover entire nation by the year 2002. The disease, although curable, the treatment is not availed by all. The number of infected persons who prefer complete treatment is very low. As the treatment is of long duration, many patients leave the treatment midway and suffer and die.
Besides lack of awareness, spitting in open is a major hurdle in controlling TB in the country. By spitting in open one person can infect 15 others at a time.
Spitting while driving, from running vehicles is very common. Even if strict punishment has been provided under new rules, detection of these offences is very difficult. With the insurgence of Coronavirus, putting on masks has been made compulsory. Under Motor Vehicles Act using helmet while driving is mandatory. This has reduced spitting while driving. However, immediately after crossing the places where police personnel are deputed, people remove helmets and masks to facilitate their spitting habit.
The health machinery of the Government has announced survey and detection tests at doorsteps of citizens. Opening of a large number of TB testing centers have been announced. However, these announcements were restricted to papers only. These announcements were never seen implemented.
TB Awareness Week has just ended. During the Coronavirus pandemic, very little cases of tuberculosis were reported at major hospitals. People are confused over drastic reduction in cases of other health problems during the one of year of the pandemic.
Those in habit of consuming tobacco will have to resolve not to spit in open. If they decide to give up the addiction of tobacco, it will be of greater help to entire society and will be a service to the nation.