Covid fails to disrupt Himachal's fight against tuberculosis

Covid fails to disrupt Himachal's fight against tuberculosis

Subhash Rajta

Tribune News Service

Shimla, October 18

India has reported a drop of 25 to 30 per cent in tuberculosis (TB) cases notifications in the first six months this year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). That’s quite a significant drop, but Himachal Pradesh, one of the best performing states in the fight against TB, has bucked the trend. Barring April, the notifications (the number of patients identified) have remained consistent, showing that the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown didn’t affect the drive to identify and cure TB patients in the state.

“The TB notifications dropped to 786 in April in Himachal from the general level of 1,300 to 1,400 a month. Coronavirus and the lockdown threatened to derail our campaign but we responded quickly and the notification rate was back to the expected level next month,” said National Health Mission (NHM) Director Nipun Jindal.

Keeping the TB campaign on track in the midst of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown wasn’t easy though. “We faced many challenges such as presumptive TB cases had difficulty reaching the PHI or the DMC due to the lockdown, sputum transportation facility to CABNAAT and the IRL laboratory was disrupted, the NTEP staff was deployed on Covid duties...,” said Jindal. “However, we managed to work around these challenges,” he added.

At a time when routine OPDs were closed, the responsibility to identify presumptive TB cases and facilitate their testing was handed over to the flu clinics in medical colleges and district hospitals. “Besides, the Ayurveda centres, too, were roped in, and cough corners in hospitals were upgraded to URI corners for fast-tracking of presumptive cases,” said Jindal. “Also, arrangements were made to transport samples to the nearest CBNAAT site, supply drugs to district DRTB centres. We even arranged medicines for our patients stuck outside the state by contacting the NTEP staff there”.

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