Need to improve TB infection control standards

Seven persons die of tuberculosis in Hyderabad district every day

Updated - June 12, 2017 07:04 pm IST

Published - March 24, 2017 01:21 am IST - HYDERABAD

Seven persons fall prey to tuberculosis in Hyderabad district — which also sees 35 new cases of the infection by the bacterium — every day. Increasingly, healthcare workers too are among the victims, doctors say, indicating a need to improve infection control standards in hospitals.

A recent review of infection control protocols in swine flu wards of Gandhi Hospital and Niloufer Hospital showed that healthcare personnel were not careful in using masks and gloves while treating infected patients. The situation is not very different in TB wards.

Tuberculosis, caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis, kills more people than HIV every year, and nearly a quarter of cases are diagnosed in India every year. Despite numerous well-understood challenges, the Indian government set a target to eradicate TB by 2025 as against the World Health Organization’s target of 2035. This would mean the country has to reduce its incidence by 19% every year here on, as against the 1.5% to 2% achieved in the last 20 years.

Realistic target

“We have to work much harder to reach those targets. At our current rate of progress, it is difficult to eradicate the disease. At the present rate, TB would be eradicated only in 2162,” said K. Subhakar, head of department of pulmonary medicine at the Government Chest Hospital and chairman of south zone’s Task Force for the country’s tuberculosis programme, also known as RNTCP.

In Telangana, around 50,000 cases of TB are targeted for treatment every year, with a claimed treatment success rate of around 90%, according to the State TB office. However, poor notification by the private sector and patients not adhering to treatment are major challenges in achieving the country’s ambitious goal of becoming TB free. The notification rate in the State is 115 per one lakh population, of which just 16 cases are notified by the private sector. Nearly 70% of TB cases in the country are estimated to be diagnosed and treated by the country’s private healthcare.

Private practitioners suggest directing private hospitals to carry out testing only in notified centres as one way of gathering data about all cases. “The government notified centres have equipment that can not just diagnose but also perform sensitivity testing,” said pulmonologist Sudheer Prasad of Gleneagles Global Hospitals, who is also part of the State’s TB Association.

Meanwhile, in the city, doctors inform that healthcare workers falling prey to the bacterium indicates lax infection control practices.

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