Health Ministry recommends COVID-19 test for all tuberculosis patients

Health Ministry recommends COVID-19 test for all tuberculosis patients

The Union Health Ministry recommended that all tuberculosis (TB) patients be tested for the novel coronavirus and vice versa.

In a document titled ‘Guidance Note on Bi-directional TB-COVID Screening and Screening of TB Among ILI/SARI Cases’, the Health Ministry noted that tuberculosis is associated with a 2.1-fold increased risk of severe coronavirus infection. Further, the prevalence of the disease among those infected by COVID-19 has been found to be 0.37 percent to 4.47 percent.

Studies have shown that a history of active as well as latent TB [tuberculosis] is an important risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2] infection,” the document read. “This not only results in increased susceptibility but also rapid and severe symptom development and disease progression with poor outcomes.”

Notably, tuberculosis patients also tend to have comorbidities or living conditions (malnutrition, diabetes, smoking habit, HIV, etc) that increase their vulnerability. To address this dual morbidity of tuberculosis and COVID-19, activities such as Bi-directional TB-COVID screening, TB screening for influenza-like illness (ILI) cases, and TB screening for severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) cases should be carried out, the health ministry advised.

Under the bi-directional tuberculosis-coronavirus screening, COVID-19  screening for all diagnosed tuberculosis patients as well as tuberculosis screening for all coronavirus positive patients should be carried out. Tuberculosis and COVID-19 are infectious diseases that primarily attack the lungs. They present with similar symptoms of cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing, although tuberculosis has a longer incubation period and a slower onset of disease, the document said.

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