New Delhi: Ranking above HIV and malaria, health experts on the occasion of World Tuberculosis day, called for an increase in public awareness on the rising cases of TB among children.
Challenges in diagnosis and delayed treatment results in two to seven percent rise in TB cases among children in India
Six countries account for 60 percent of the total TB deaths, with India leading the count, followed by Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.
If a child under the age of five develops TB symptoms, the mantaux test, a very economical and reliable screening test in adults, is done to detect the signs.
According to Dr. Rahul Nagpal, Director, Pediatrics, Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, New Delhi, “There has been a steep rise in TB cases among children in India. In a month, I see nearly seven to 10 new cases. It is sad to see children below the age of five in the OPDs with TB, but the most unfortunate part is the lack of awareness, proper diagnosis and treatment in case of childhood TB.
“The youngest TB case handled by me was a 1500 gm baby boy, who was born premature with congenital TB. I have seen other similar cases too but what makes me remember this one was that his mother had uterus TB and was unaware of it.
It is important to know that TB is a disease which is preventable and curable.
Dealing with childhood TB is difficult and crucial because there are several challenges in diagnosis and treatment. At the time of birth, BCG vaccine is compulsory for children.
According to TB FACTS.ORG , signs and symptoms of TB disease in children include:
- Feelings of sickness or weakness, lethargy, reduced playfulness
- Weight loss or failure to thrive
- Fever, night sweats
Signs of TB in other parts of the body among children depend on the area affected. Infants, young children and immunocompromised children (e.g., children with HIV) are at the highest risk of developing the most severe forms of TB – TB meningitis or disseminated TB disease.
A pediatric TB expert should be consulted for the treatment in children. The medication for children is usually prescribed according to their weights and hence the treatment for each child needs to be customised.
According to Mr Sandeep Guduru, Facility Director, Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, New Delhi, “TB in children is ignored, goes unnoticed and is under-reported. While there are many campaigns to create awareness about pulmonary TB, we need to work more aggressively towards creating knowledge.
“Also, the rise in Multi-Drug-Resistance (MDR-TB) among children has drawn very less attention of caregivers. The government and private sector healthcare providers need to come on a single platform to ensure the next generation is TB free.”
WHO is calling on countries and partners to “Unite to End Tuberculosis” this year. The call comes as we enter the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ending tuberculosis (TB) by 2030 is a target of the SDGs and the goal of the WHO End TB Strategy.