Fact-check: Expert take on 6 tuberculosis myths

Fact-check: Expert take on 6 tuberculosis myths

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TB is curable, but the biggest challenge remains the general lack of awareness about the disease, coupled with poor health seeking behaviours among most people.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a common, and in many cases fatal, infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis that attacks the lungs, and can affect other parts of the body too. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India has the highest burden of TB, with nearly two deaths occurring every three minutes due to the disease. However, with timely treatment, these deaths can be prevented. 

“About a third of the world’s population harbours the TB germ, which lies dormant in most individuals throughout their lifetime. However, in about 10 per cent of the cases, it can break down into active TB disease, depending upon the immune status of the person,” says Dr Kuldeep Singh Sachdeva, former head of India’s National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme and President - Chief Medical Officer of Molbio Diagnostics, India. 

Dr Kuldeep helps dispel some of the common myths and misconceptions associated with TB:

Myth: Tuberculosis is hereditary. 

Fact: TB is not hereditary. However, it can spread within households with one or more patients, if adequate preventive measures are not taken. Given that it is an airborne disease, it can easily spread, particularly if the patient does not get an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.  

Myth: TB cannot be cured.

TB is completely curable with timely treatment. The biggest challenge remains the general lack of awareness about the disease, coupled with poor health seeking behaviour among most people. 

Myth: TB is a disease of the past. 

Fact: While TB is an ancient disease, it is still widely prevalent in many parts of the world. Despite being curable and preventable, the infectious bacterial disease remains a global public health challenge. 

Myth: A person can be infected with TB only once.

Fact: A person can get TB more than once in his/her lifetime, depending upon the exposure to the TB germ and the immune status of the person.

Myth: Smoking causes TB.  

Fact: Smoking per se does not lead to TB infections. However, the risk of TB is higher among smokers, due to the effects of smoking on the lungs and the body’s immune system.

Myth: TB only affects poor people or those in low-income countries.

Fact: TB can affect people from all strata of society, irrespective of socio-economic status. However, due to poor nutrition and other drivers of the infection, it is more prevalent in low-income countries. 

With greater awareness and proper medical treatment, the battle against TB can be won. Don’t fall for myths; trust evidence-based facts.

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