Children are also being targeted as knowledge about the disease at an early age would benefit the individuals as well as the community.

With tuberculosis continuing to be a major source of concern in this hilly district, notwithstanding the efforts of the health authorities to combat the malady, the District TB Centre has drawn up a plan of action to enhance awareness about the causes for its spread among various sections of the society. Stating that many non-governmental organisations are also extending a helping hand, the Deputy Director, TB, P.J. Vasanthan, told The Hindu here on Thursday that children are also being targeted as knowledge about the disease at an early age would be of considerable help not only to the individuals but also the community.

Pointing out that a recent link between labour shortage and the spread of the disease is now engaging the attention of the government and the non-governmental sector, he said that labour intensive sectors like the tea industry have started looking elsewhere for workers.

Labour contractors are bringing workers from places like Jharkhand and Bihar. This immigrant workforce hails from the marginalised sections of the society, with very little literacy and steeped in poverty and ignorance. It is roughly estimated that between 3000-5000 immigrant workers lie scattered throughout the district. These immigrant labourers and their dependents are screened for illnesses and infections at the time of their induction into the estate workforce and the managements have done a commendable job in rehabilitating those found to be affected with physical ailments.

Regrettably, one infection which is often overlooked even in the most meticulous of screening is latent tuberculosis wherein the individual harbours the germ in his or her body but does not suffer from the disease.

As many as 11 individuals among the migratory workers have been diagnosed to be suffering from the infectious form of tuberculosis over the past one year. One was found to be suffering from the dreaded multi-drug resistant form. Undiagnosed and unreported cases within this section of the society, is also a worrying factor. Dr. Vasanthan said that priority has to be accorded to identify such cases. To combat this newly emerging threat, the District Health Society-Revised National TB Control Programme headed by the District Collector plans to conduct sensitisation meetings for the administrators and medical personnel of the plantations as to the facilities available to tackle this menace.