World Tuberculosis Day: The 3 most common Indian myths about TB!

When it comes to the biggest worldwide killer that kills through a single infectious agent, Tuberculosis comes second only to /AIDHIVS, says the World Health Organization. Despite the gravity of the situation being such, there's still so much hearsay about TB in India that it gets hard to separate truth from fiction. Still, people believe that TB belongs to poor people, it is only a lungs' disease or it is incurable! Because of this, we thought it imperative to dispel the most common myths about Tuberculosis on this World Tuberculosis Day. We got in touch with Dr. Bornali Dutta, Associate Director Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at Medanta – The Medicity and Dr Kailash Naath Gupta, Interventional Pulmonologist, Visiting Fellow, University of Pennsylvania. As per their insights, we found the following three to be the most common myths about TB that need to be debunked right now!
Myth 1: Tuberculosis means an infection in the lungs.

Dr Bornali says, "Tuberculosis can occur in any organ of the body but the one that is infective is that in the lungs, that is pulmonary tuberculosis. This is the reason it gets the most, and sometimes all, the attention." In fact, TB can occur anywhere in the body: abdomen, lymph nodes, the bones, the sexual organs and even in the urinary tract. Genital TB may also be transmissible but it is very, very rare.

Also, even pulmonary tuberculosis has its types, primarily two - Smear-positive and smear-negative. It is only when the infection is smear-positive that it is highly infectious. When one has smear-positive TB, he spreads it to 12 to 15 people in a year. However, when the disease is smear-negative, it only spreads to 3 to 4 people in a year through an infected person.

Myth 2: Tuberculosis patients need to be isolated.

Dr Bornali couldn't emphasize it enough when she said that TB spreads only through cough or the sputum of the infected person. "It is only through air that it spreads. If a TB patient coughs and his sputum gets released in the air, it is only then that you get the infection." Both the doctors said that it is okay to, and in fact you must, eat with the person and not isolate him. "Bearing the disease in itself is enough. Social isolation will only worsen the matters for the patient," said Dr Bornali. She pointed out that it is imperative for TB patients to cover their mouths with a mask so that any secretion of the lung gets contained and not spread to others.

Myth 3: Getting Tuberculosis means the end of life.

Dr Kailash said that whenever he breaks to his patients that they have TB, they say, "But we never had in it in our family. We can't get it." They go into a denial mode, he said and why so? They fear the disease. For them, TB is incurable. Dr Bornali, equally concerned about the fact, said that, WHO recommends a six-month regimen for the treatment of the disease and post its administration, the patient is completely cured of the disease.

Besides these three, there are a few more myths that were shared by the doctors and need to be mentioned and debunked.

Dr Bornali says that people still call TB a poor man's disease. She, on the contrary, encounters patients from all the economic stratas and in fact, from the middle class mostly during her OPD sessions.

Also, she thinks that people do not know the difference between a TB infection and the disease. She said that if mantoux test is carried, about 40 per cent of the people show positive results for the TB bacteria. However, this does not mean that they have the infection. Their immunity is strong and fighting off the infection and hence, it does not turn into a disease.

Dr Kailash pointed out that many people also think TB to be caused by intake of caffeine, smoking or drinking. He said, "Though these factors definitely increase one's chances of getting the disease, it is not true when it is contrary. Just because you don't smoke or drink does not mean you cannot or will not get TB."

Incomplete treatment - the biggest blunder!

Both the doctors mentioned the trend of administering incomplete treatment as being very common among people. Of course, no treatment is no better but what's worse with administering an incomplete treatment is that it leads to drug resistance, which is more severe to treat than TB itself. Dr Kailash said that almost 30 per cent of the patients who seek TB treatment witness a remarkable improvement in very less time, thus, often leaving the treatment incomplete.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) are cases where the patient becomes resistant to anti-TB drugs. Treating these conditions took as much as 24 months until now, said Dr Bornali. Lately, WHO has licensed certain medications which may reduce the treatment's time to nine months. However, an effective TB treatment is only six-month long. Both the doctors feel that this is something which people really need to know and understand!

Source - Times Of India

Follow by Email