TB in COVID-19 patients increases risk; doctors stress early detection

x-ray of lungs
Tuberculosis can affect any part of the body but 70 per cent of cases are seen in the respiratory system.

The death rate of COVID-19 patients affected by tuberculosis in Kerala is 15 per cent. This validates the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s forecast that those affected by COVID-19 would be in grave danger if they had a tuberculosis comorbidity.

As on December 10, 174 people with tuberculosis contracted COVID-19. Out of this 26, died; this is 15 per cent.

The COVID-19 fatality rate in the state has remained low at 0.5 per cent. But those with comorbid conditions like diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory illnesses are at a larger risk. It is also being learnt that most of those who succumbed to the illness had more than one comorbidity.

Tuberculosis can affect any part of the body but 70 per cent of cases are seen in the respiratory system. It is called pulmonary TB. The COVID-causing coronavirus also affects the respiratory system. This apart, it has been found that 40 per cent of TB patients had diabetes; increasing their risk.

State TB Officer M. Sunilkumar said there wa sno cause for worry. He said the death rate among TB patients had not spiked in comparison to previous years. Effective preventive steps were taken to cover TB patients as soon as COVID was reported, Dr. Sunilkumar said. This helped content he fatality rate, he added.

The state ensured, with the help of ASHA workers, that all TB patients got their medicines even during lockdown. The case was different in other states, he said.

The number of new TB cases saw a decline of 2,500 as on August 2020. Almost 500 patients could be tracked in the TB screening drives. The State TB Cell and the Health Department were taking all efforts to track the rest of them, he added.

Kerala was among the first states to introduce TB screening in COVID patients and vice-versa. This helped identify COVID patients with TB, Dr. Sunilkumar said.

WHO TB Elimination Consultant P.S. Rakesh said the 15 per cent fatality rate of Kerala was lower than the 20 per cent recorded at Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi. This was testimony to the preventive and containment activities carried out by the state. Dr. Rakesh said.

Comorbid TB deaths could have happened in cases which delayed detection. Dr. Rakesh said COVID should not be seen in isolation and the possibility of comorbidity was always there. Prolonged fever, cough, loss of weight etc could be due to TB. So, early detection of TB was vital, he said.

Of the 26 patients with TB and COVID, the average age was 67 years and they would have had multiple comorbidities. A study at the Medical College Hospital, Alappuzha, indicated that 70 per cent deaths in TB patients were caused due to other illnesses.

TB patients are advised to take care, exercise caution, and stick to their medication. They should also keep diabetes under control, Dr. Rakesh said adding there was no need to panic.

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