Tuberculosis: No longer a poor man's disease

On the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day, experts tell us how there has been a marked shift in the profile of people afflicted with the disease. Sangeetha Neeraja finds out more

Published: 25th March 2013 07:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th March 2013 07:50 AM   |  A+A-

Bangalore: Tuberculosis (TB) is no more a poor man’s disease. Today the educated, sophisticated, well-to-do upper middle class are also vulnerable and diagnosed with the disease due to the highly demanding and stressful lives they lead. In the last five years, there has definitely been a marked shift in the socio-economic demographic profile of people who are afflicted with TB, observed experts on World TB Day.

Speaking to City Express, Dr Arundathi, BBMP’s District TB Officer for Bangalore Urban said, “TB spares no one these days, which is the new alarming trend that we find in the city. People come and tell me, ‘we drink only mineral water, and live very hygienically’, but the highly stressful lives they lead coupled with sedentary lifestyles is to be blamed.”

Dr S Subramaniyam, a family physician, who for decades has been treating TB, added, “TB is now everybody’s disease. Looking at my patients’ profile, these days the highly vulnerable group are those who are leading a highly successful but highly pressured, stressful life. When people are exposed to stress continuously for a long time, their immunity levels drop. They hardly have any time for themselves to do any exercises or eat right, which leads to typical lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and also alcoholism.”

TB is an air borne disease. The TB bacilli is ever present in the atmosphere. In India, more than 70 per cent of the population is infected by TB bacilli, which means, more than 70 crore people are infected, statistics indicate.

“For decades, TB bacillus can remain dormant in one’s system. Only when the immunity level drops, they become active. That is why it is very important to keep the immunity level high, so that the TB bacilli, which most of us have in our system, do not get activated,” pointed out Dr S Subramaniyam, who was the past president of Family Physicians’ Association of Bangalore.

While this is the state of affairs with the affluent adults, even children from upper middle class families are not spared. “Children coming from well-to-do backgrounds are highly vulnerable, and are developing TB,” said Karnataka State TB Officer, Dr Suryakanth. A study done by Indian Development Foundation, an NGO, which works on TB awareness, adds more credence to the State TB Officer’s statement. Dr S Franklin, manager - Southern region, Indian Development Foundation said, “From our surveys in 100 schools in the city, we found out that 35 per cent of the children from affluent families who study in good private schools do not eat breakfast regularly. In the long run, this will suppress their immunity, making them at high risk to get TB.”

This new emerging trend of TB crossing over to reach the affluent has jolted the medical fraternity and brainstorming sessions have begun. “National Tuberculosis Institute, New Delhi had started collecting clinical data on this shift in socio-economic demographic profile of people who are getting TB, to study the trend further, so that they can advise on better policy initiatives to control this emerging trend,” added Dr S Subramaniyam.


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