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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Combating TB among tribals

“Use tribals to teach tribals”. This approach is in the process of being adopted by the health authorities entrusted with the task of tackling tuberculosis (TB) in the Nilgiris district. Deputy Director of Medical Services (TB) P.J. Vasanthan expressed hope that the proposed strategy would help combat TB among the tribals.

Dr. Vasanthan told The Hindu that the incidence of sputum positive pulmonary tuberculosis was very high among some of the tribal groups inhabiting the lower reaches of the district.

Studies have revealed that it was 80 to 120 per lakh population as against the national average of 75 per lakh population.

While the total tribal population was about 30,000 around 10,000 were found in Coonoor, Kotagiri and Udhagamandalam blocks and the rest scattered in Gudalur and surroundings. A report for the first quarter of 2008 showed that the prevalence rate among the tribals was 103 cases per lakh population. It represented as much as 23 per cent of the total number of cases in the district.

New cases

Another factor which was causing grave concern was the repeated emergence of new cases among family members of patients who had already been successfully treated for sputum positive pulmonary TB. The prevalence rate for 2007 was: Kattunayakas: 212 per lakh, Mullu Kurumbas: 195 per lakh, Hallu Kurumbas: 190 per lakh, Irulas: 168 per lakh, Panias: 111 per lakh and Betta Kurumbas: 84 per lakh.

Asked about the reasons for the abnormally high prevalence, Dr. Vasanthan said the main factor was late diagnosis. Most of the cases detected are usually in an advanced state with a high bacterial content in the sputa. An infected person can spread the disease to at least 10 to 15 persons per year, if not detected and treated.

Among the reasons for late diagnosis were lack of awareness, non-availability of facilities, fear of loss of wages and blind dependence on traditional and occult practices.


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