With the World Health Organisation (WHO) identifying childhood tuberculosis (TB) as a hidden epidemic, TB specialists and paediatric pulmonologists in the city say the disease can be checked by taking some precautions.
According to WHO, TB often goes undiagnosed in children from birth to 15 years, either because they lack access to health services or because health workers are unprepared to recognise the symptoms of TB in this age group. And with World TB Day observed on Saturday, doctors say the slogan for 2012, ‘Stop TB in my lifetime', should be taken seriously.
Caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the disease spreads from person to person through saliva, or when a person with the infection coughs or sneezes.
Shashidhar Buggi, director of SDS TB and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, says awareness about the disease is poor among families who are vulnerable.
“It is most important to get children in the house diagnosed when an adult is diagnosed with TB. Any child living with a TB patient and who has an unexplained fever should be evaluated,” he explains.
Difficult to diagnose
According to Dr. Buggi, TB is difficult to diagnose in children and is often mistaken for pneumonia.
H. Paramesh, paediatric pulmonologist and director of Lakeside Hospital, says parents should not ignore persistent cough or cold that lasts for more than two weeks. “Unexplained low-grade fever that lasts for more than a week and loss of appetite and weight in the child are strong indications of childhood TB,” he says.
Unlike in adults where a sputum test would help in diagnosing the disease, a TB skin test and chest X-ray are important in detecting the disease in children, he adds.
Sumant Mantri, consultant pulmonologist in Apollo Hospital says children have an increased risk of getting infected with TB when they come in contact with parents or elders with active TB at home or at school.
“Parents and other residents of the house who smoke must quit tobacco use as second-hand tobacco smoke puts their children at risk of TB,” he says.
Proper cross-ventilation at home and school, respiratory etiquette, keeping the curtains and upholstery clean, and making washing hands a must both before and after meals are some preventive measures that must be followed, he adds.