Pankaj Bhavnani, 41, who lives in Mumbai, had a wonderful life until a year ago. He had a good job in a business house and was living happily with his wife Rakhi and twin children. But in October 2019, Pankaj contracted Tuberculosis (TB).
TB attacked Pankaj’s lungs. After six months of treatment, he was 80 percent healthy. But other crises were following him. Tests in February revealed that TB bacteria had infected Pankaj’s brain. Within three months, his eyesight had deteriorated, and his legs were out of balance.
The lockdown was over, he underwent brain surgery for six hours on July 17, and the infection was removed. He was discharged from the hospital after being given strict medicine for ten days.
Pankaj says, ‘If the drug is stopped among TB patients, it will not be cured, and there is a risk of death. The medicine was running out and could not be bought anywhere. At that time, my family could not sleep for five nights. The fear was that my infection would not spread to the baby.
Pankaj’s family appealed to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Maharashtra Government, all major hospitals, and private institutions for medicine. The drug was imported from Japan, and the global coronavirus crisis was disrupting its supply.
Pankaj’s wife took to Twitter to express her grief. Then, through the same medium, somehow, the medicine was made. Remembering the difficult situation at that time, Pankaj became emotional and said, “I thought there was no other option but to die.”
Shakib Khan’s family had been living in a village on the Ghaziabad-Noida border for three years. Shakib’s 71-year-old father was undergoing treatment for TB at Patel Chest Hospital in Delhi.
Shakib, who has been raising a family on wages, had a hard time running the house. He returned to his village in Bijnor with his neighbors.
He says, ‘My father’s medicine ended up in the lockdown. Again, it took more than three weeks to continue. According to the doctor, he has to take medication again and again for a year.
Tuberculosis (TB) Under Cover of Coronavirus
COVID-19 is now widely discussed around the world, including in Nepal and India. Corona covers other diseases. However, much more dangerous diseases than Corona are still plaguing human life. One of them is TB.
India is the most affected country in the world by TB. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 480,000 people die in India every year. This is one-third of the world’s deaths.
Breaking down this figure reveals even more disturbing images. The Indian Government estimates that 1,300 people die every day. Corona, which is currently flourishing, is killing around one thousand people daily.
Comparing the two figures, it is still seen that more deaths are due to TB than Corona in India. India has been trying to prevent and control TB for 50 years but has not succeeded. Indians consider this disease as a ‘silent killer.’
Outbreaks of Corona have been on the rise in India since the last week of January. On March 24, a nationwide lockdown was announced. Since then, the number of TV patients has dropped dramatically. But this fact does not reflect reality. The number is low due to the inability of patients to reach the hospital due to lockdown.
Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, and other states have the highest number of TB patients. According to the Chief TB officer of Bihar Dr. KN Sahay, TB patients are not a priority as all attention now focused on COVID 19.
“Not only government hospitals but also private TB clinics were closed,” he said. As a result, the number of TB patients has halved.
He said that many TB patients had to go through the ordeal due to the COVID epidemic. Many patients have died due to the inability to continue the medication.
Risk of Infection
Due to the stalemate in the lockdown, the spread of TB in India is now expected to increase at a high rate. Early detection of TB is important for successful treatment. TB patients receive a monthly stipend of Rs 500 from the Government for a full course of medicine and a nutritious diet. The Narendra Modi-led government had vowed to eradicate TV by 2025. But now there are fears that TB could spread to the community amid the devastation of COVID.
The head of the McGill International TB Center, Dr. Madhu Pai is currently studying TB. He says India’s goal of eradicating TB may now have to be stretched for at least five years.