No Evidence On Increase In Tuberculosis Cases Due To COVID-1
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Clarifying the possible impacts of COVID-19 complications, on July 17, the Centre has stated that there is not enough evidence to suggest, there has been an increase in Tuberculosis (TB) cases due to COVID-19. The statement was released in line with the media reports that claimed there was a sudden rise in cases of Tuberculosis (TB) among COVID-19 patients.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has clarified that Tuberculosis (TB) screening for all COVID-19 positive patients and COVID-19 screening for all diagnosed TB patients is required. It is further added that states and Union Territories have been asked for convergence in efforts for better surveillance and case finding of TB and COVID-19, as early as August 2020.

The MoHFW has issued multiple advisories and guidance to reiterate the need for bi-directional screening of TB-COVID and TB-ILI/SARI. And, the States and UTs have been implementing the same

~ Do TB cases increase amid COVID-19?

Amid COVID-19 restrictions, a decline by 25% in TB cases has been reported in 2020 but special efforts are being made to mitigate this impact through intensified case finding in OPD settings as well as through active case finding campaigns in the community by all States. So far, there isn't enough evidence that suggests an increase in TB cases due to COVID-19 infections or due to increased case-finding efforts.

~ TB and COVID-19 infections

Stating the similarity of TB and COVID-19 infections, to begin with, both are diseases known to be infectious that primarily attack the lungs, presenting similar symptoms of cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing, although TB has a longer incubation period and a slower onset of disease. In addition, TB bacilli can be present in humans in a dormant state and have the potential to start multiplying when the individual’s immunity is compromised for any reason.

The same is applicable in post COVID scenarios, when an individual may develop decreased immunity due to the virus itself or due to the treatment, especially immune-suppressants like steroids. SARS-CoV-2 infection can make an individual more susceptible to developing active TB disease, as TB is an opportunistic infection like black fungus.