Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading cause of death worldwide. Pakistan ranks sixth globally among the 22 high-TB burden countries and contributes an estimated 43 percent of the disease towards the Eastern Mediterranean region. Annually around 430,000 people including 15,000 children contract tuberculosis in Pakistan, and every year no less than 70,000 deaths can be attributed to the disease in the country. Pakistan is also estimated to have the fourth highest prevalence of multi drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) globally. Over 95 percent of tuberculosis deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.

Tuberculosis is a disease of poverty and poor, malnourished, diabetic patients using corticosteroid drugs, drug addicts, smokers, elderly, HIV-infected patients, alcoholics and people living in overcrowded institution like prison. A large number of people infected with the tuberculosis bacilli are not diagnosed either because of poverty or because of lack of awareness about the seriousness of the disease. The delay in diagnosis along with unsupervised, inappropriate and inadequate drug regimens, poor follow up and lack of social support programmes for high-risk population, are some of the reasons for not reaching the target rates and emergence of a drug resistant form of tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is a treatable disease with six months course of antibiotics. However, prevention is better than cure. It can be prevented by BCG vaccination and by awareness raising campaigns on a mass scale. If somebody has the symptoms of tuberculosis, one should report to the nearest health care centres to get their sputum tested free of cost. Tuberculosis patients should not be stigmatised and must receive full support from family and community. To reduce the burden of the disease in Pakistan there is a dire need to increase awareness among public and especially among the youth through mass media.

KIRAN FATIMA,

Islamabad, August 15.