• Tuberculosis ranks as the seventh leading cause of deaths in the country

Kathmandu, March 25

Tuberculosis remains a serious problem across the South-East Asia Region, including Nepal.

The government aims to reduce deaths caused by tuberculosis in the country by 95 per cent within 15 years, but the number of patients diagnosed with tuberculosis is increasing every year.

According to data with National Tuberculosis Centre, the number of TB patients is increasing every year. In fiscal 2015-16, there were 32,056 new cases of TB detected. In the year 2016-17 the number stood at 31,764 and in the fiscal 2017-18, the number reached 32,474.

On the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day, which was observed yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health and Population Upendra Yadav made the annual report on TB public.

The report states that tuberculosis remains a major public health problem in Nepal. TB also ranks as the seventh leading cause of death in the country.

The report states in FY 2017-18 some 6,000 deaths was caused by TB. According to this data, an estimated 87 persons suffer from TB and some 16 die due to TB every day in Nepal.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affects the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they release TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

About one-quarter of the world’’s population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not yet ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.

People infected with TB bacteria have a 5 to 15 per cent lifetime risk of falling ill with TB. However, persons with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.

When a person develops active TB disease, symptoms such as cough, fever, night sweats, or weight loss may be mild for many months. This can lead to delay in seeking care and results in transmission of the bacteria to others. People with active TB can infect 10 to 15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. Without proper treatment, 45 per cent HIV-negative people with TB on average and nearly all HIV-positive people with TB will die.

Despite being a preventable and curable disease, TB remains the world’s top infectious killer affecting the most economically productive age group which impacts the economy of the country.

TB not only makes people sick, but the cost of TB treatment plunges TB affected families in the vicious cycle of sickness and poverty.  It is known that Rs 109 invested to end TB returns Rs 4,690 plus the multiple benefits of a healthy functioning society. Hence, investment in TB is not just combating TB but makes economic sense.

World TB Day is marked each year on March 24 to make the public aware of the devastating health, social, and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. The member states of Southeast Asia Region issued a call for action in March, 2017, highlighting the political, technical and strategic interventions needed to rout this disease.

During the programme, Minister of Health and Population reiterated Nepal’s commitment to end TB and said there was need to increase public awareness in marginalised communities to control the disease.