World TB Day: Masks must be made mandatory to control TB, say experts

India is home to more than 25 per cent of the global TB burden, and each year, more than 400,000 lives are lost in the country to this deadly ailment.

Hyderabad: COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to stop its spread indicate that transmission of infectious diseases can be prevented by using face masks, say experts.

This simple yet most effective means is best suited to stop a deadly ailment like tuberculosis from spreading. Many healthcare experts are in favour of mandating or encouraging people to continue wearing masks which could help in numerous ways beyond ending the current global healthcare crisis.

March 24 is commemorated as World Tuberculosis Day, and on this day, there is an imminent need to enhance awareness among the people about this ailment, say experts.

India is home to more than 25 per cent of the global TB burden, and each year, more than 400,000 lives are lost in the country to this deadly ailment. The World Health Organisation reported that there are more than 10 million active TB cases in India.

Tuberculosis is a social disease, caused due to overcrowding and malnutrition. This ailment disproportionately affects the financially marginalised sections of society, and the stigma associated with this disease lead to under-reporting and under-diagnosis.

“India is among the most densely-populated nations in the world, and the physical proximity between people here leads to spread of certain infectious diseases, like the deadly tuberculosis. The onset of coronavirus and call to mask-up and maintain physical distance to prevent its spread was followed religiously in India, and this helped prevent the spread of virus to a great extent. The positive results from this suggest India is a disciplined nation, and its denizens can be encouraged to follow certain best practices to prevent spread of TB too,” Dr Mohammad Nawaz S., Consultant Pulmonologist, KIMS Hospitals told IANS.

“There is no doubt that India can successfully deploy similar tactics it employed against Covid-19 to contain TB disease. TB spreads from an infected person to others through droplets, and this transmission can be stopped by ensuring physical distancing, and ensuring infected individuals wear masks while in public spaces. It is best advised, family members and others who come in close contact with TB patients must also wear masks while meeting other non-suspecting people. Such steps will ensure tuberculosis is contained efficiently across India,” says Dr Tapaswi Krishna P., Consultant Pulmonologist, Gleneagles Global Hospitals.

Highlighting the need for an early diagnosis, Dr Aditya Vadan, Consultant Pulmonologist, SLG Hospitals, pointed out that Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of early diagnosis and treatment in time to ensure a cure.

“New and emerging diagnostic techniques give rapid and ultra-precise results compared to the traditional sputum test. Instant case notification helps in better case tracking and contact monitoring, and through these, India can ensure prevent the spread of tuberculosis to a great extent. TB skin tests and TB blood tests are among the most prominent tests to ascertain infection positivity among victims,” he said.

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