Is it possible to eliminate TB from J&K by 2025?

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SHAKEELA ANDRABI

SRINAGAR: According to health experts, Tuberculosis or TB is still more prevalent in rural pockets of J&K for many reasons. The disease was initially known as poor man’s disease. Although that scenario is changing now but due to increasing population and lack of proper nutrition in rural areas, thereby TB is still much prevalent in rural belts. TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 (above HIV/AIDS). In 2020, an estimated 10 million people suffered from tuberculosis (TB) worldwide including 5.6 million men, 3.3 million women and 1.1 million children. TB is present in all countries and among all age-groups. According to WHO data, in 2020, 30 high TB burden countries accounted for 86 per cent new TB cases while eight countries accounted for two thirds of total, with India leading the count, followed by China, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.
According to World Health Organisation, globally TB cases were falling at about 2 per cent per year and between 2015 and 2020, with cumulative reduction 11 per cent. This was over half way to end TB Strategy milestone of 20 per cent reduction between 2015 and 2020, but COVID pandemic caused a major setback and it was observed that tuberculosis is on rise again globally for the first time in a decade, linked to disruptions in access to healthcare because of COVID pandemic.
In 2018, 4,774 TB cases were recorded in J&K. In 2019, it was down to 4,080 while in 2020, the number further declined to 2,836 cases.
Earlier this year, the Union Health Ministry declared Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam tuberculosis-free.
Dr Rubeena Shaheen, State Tuberculosis Officer (STO) told that Tuberculosis cases are on decline in Kashmir division. “We are doing our best to complete our target. By 2025, Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory will be TB free,” she hoped.
She said cases are on decline in all other districts, except Srinagar, where TB cases are still more. Dr Rubeena said that in Jammu division, there are districts which have more TB cases as compared to Kashmir division. When asked whether COVID-19 has affected TB testing in UT, she said, “COVID-19 has impacted pace of NTEP but now it is picking up again.”
According to report, around 165 persons per 1,00,000 are assessed to have medically-treated Tuberculosis. “Budgam has been certified as Tuberculosis free under sub-national TB certification claims. This year, we are applying for two more districts which are Kupwara and Pulwama,” she added.
According to official sources, at present in Srinagar district, the number of TB patients are increasing and more than 2.13 lakh people were screened in Srinagar D out of which 1,106 people were found having symptoms of TB.
The district administration is also worried on this data and has stressed upon all officers of Health Department to increase TB testing capacity through active and passive mode to achieve targets under the National TB Elimination Programme before 2025. District administration also emphasized to take every step for keeping advanced TB testing facilities available at every institution besides ensuring implementation of Bidirectional TB-COVID Screening without any fail. Recently, additional Chief Secretary Health & Medical Education (H&ME), Vivek Bhardwaj convened a meeting of UT-level TB Forum for community engagement interventions and community led TB response in J&K. ACS said that community led response for TB is one of the key strategies to reach unreached and support TB patients throughout their treatment and recovery phase and community engagement is important, as it is time to work with communities to eradicate TB from UT of J&K before 2025.