Childhood TB Roadmap will help save lives: Experts; by Bobby Ramakant

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The "Roadmap for Childhood Tuberculosis: Towards Zero Deaths" - the first-ever plan which specifically addresses TB in children and outlines the path towards zero deaths from childhood TB - was jointly launched on 1st October 2013, by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Stop TB Partnership and other partners.
This Childhood TB Roadmap potentially can help strengthen prevention, confirmed and early diagnosis and successful treatment completion for children with TB, as per the experts at the Media Dialogue organized by CNS Vote For Health campaign.
Dr Surya Kant, Chairman of UP State Task Force for TB Control and Vice President of Indian Chest Society said: “530,000 children become ill with TB every year with 70%–80% of them having pulmonary TB and the rest are affected by the disease in other parts of the body (extra-pulmonary TB). In case of India, as per the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) Annual Report 2013, it is estimated that 10% of total TB load is found in children. The number of paediatric TB cases registered under RNTCP has shown an increasing trend in the past five years and in 2012, about 81,482 cases were notified. However the actual burden of childhood TB (globally as well as in India) could be much higher because TB in children often goes undiagnosed. Parents and guardians must pay extra-attention to provide healthy diet to children and refrain from offering them junk food as malnutrition is one of the big risk factors for TB as well.”
Dr Sushil Chaturvedi, District TB Officer, Lucknow and a noted physician told Citizen News Service - CNS: “Every day over 200 children under the age of 15 die worldwide from this preventable and curable disease, bringing the annual death toll to 74,000. Current diagnostics, toxic drugs and inadequate drug formulations are insufficient to respond to the needs of children with TB.”
"If we can shift TB diagnosis and treatment out of specialized programs and into other existing maternal and child health activities, we automatically gain reach and scale. Combining that scale with investment in tools and medicine would save tens of thousands of lives," said José Luis Castro, Interim Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).
Dr Chaturvedi added “Patient education is empowering. We as citizens must be aware that if someone has TB in household then children should get tested. Under DOTS, we do contact tracing of TB patients registered with us. Children of these patients are first tested by a paediatrician. If they are found with active TB disease they are put on paediatric TB treatment. But all those children who do not test positive for active TB disease, but have latent TB, are put on Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT) - the current revised dosage is 10mg/kg as compared to earlier 5mg/kg.”
Increased action to implement contact investigation to detect and manage TB in children; advocacy for research on new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for childhood TB; improved recording and reporting of data on childhood TB; scaling up of capacity building of health workers to detect and manage children with TB antenatal screening for TB – detect, treat or prevent TB in mothers, are some of the urgent steps we must take, said Dr Surya Kant who is also the Professor and Head of Pulmonary Medicine Department, King George’s Medical University (KGMU).
“Infection control in healthcare settings and community/ household settings must be maintained. Proper cross-ventilation, cough hygiene, avoiding crowds in OPDs, wearing masks, proper waste hospital disposal etc are important. Curing adult TB to prevent childhood TB is equally a priority” said Dr Surya Kant. (CNS)

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