PANAJI: While all attention was on the ravaging Coronavirus during the pandemic’s devastating impact in 2020-22, it turns out that tuberculosis was quite a steady but silent killer in Goa, responsible for nearly 350 deaths in 2021 and 2022.
At 10 percent, the country’s highest mortality rate for TB patients, the disease continues to kill at that same rate in the current year to date too.
According to Dr Manish Gaunekar, who heads tuberculosis management at the Directorate of Health Services, there was a sudden unexplained jump in mortality due to tuberculosis during 2021-22.
Getting oneself examined is paramount to health
Generally, delay in getting oneself examined even after experiencing the symptoms of persistent cough, weight loss, and night sweats, is a common factor is one reason cited by Dr Gaunekar but he added that a more scientific analysis is still being carried out. Many times, even after detection several patients are reluctant to pursue treatment regimes, Dr Gaunekar said, adding that they have now begun sensitizing family members of the patient to ensure treatment is followed.
In 2020, Goa recorded 1,660 new tuberculosis patients and the figure jumped to 2,009 in 2021, the year Covid-19 disrupted healthcare systems and claimed many across the State.
The following year in 2022 too there were 2,003 new TB cases and there was also a sudden jump of three percentage points in mortality at 10 percent from the 7 per-cent mortality in 2021. This year too from January to September, the State has had 1,269 new TB patients and a marginally lower mortality rate of 9.5 percent.
The health department, meanwhile, will soon be launching a campaign across panchayats to tackle the disease aimed at making Goa tuberculosis free by 2025. “The target is to reduce incidence by 80 per-cent from the levels of 2015. Also the target of mortality is to reduce it by 90 per-cent,” Dr Gaunekar said.
To improve diagnostics, Dr Gaunekar said, they have introduced the nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) for tuberculosis instead of microscopy. Goa is also the only State that has now introduced a standard operating procedure (SoP) by which patients after the six-month treatment regimen are again tested using microscopy and sputum culture to preempt recurrence, he added.
He said, there is a reluctance among Goans to come forward and test themselves for TB perhaps because of the social stigma attached.
TB diagnostic centres available at all Goa hospitals
“Senior citizens, in particular, avoid getting themselves tested,” Gaunekar said, adding that TB diagnostics are available at all government hospitals and any of the health centres across the State. “There are several instances where patients tell doctors not to reveal their status even to their family members.”
According to him, TB treatment can be an expensive affair, especially if the patient’s case is drug resistant but the entire treatment is free at all government centres.
He said, even those getting treatment with private practitioners and hospitals, the drugs are given free by the department.