The COVID19 pandemic has affected screening and testing for tuberculosis (TB) in Meghalaya.

The field activities of health workers have significantly gone down or completely halted leading to reduction in referral of presumptive TB cases from the field health workers.

“In response to the COVID pandemic, patient attendance in general OPD has reduced almost to less than half of regular days due to different government advisories, protocols, lockdown and fear of contracting COVID,” said commissioner and secretary (health) Sampath Kumar.

“These factors have, in spite of the laboratory remaining fully operational, reduced sputum examination and TB case notification,” Kumar said.

“Field activities of health workers have also significantly gone down or completely halted leading to reduction in referral of presumptive TB cases from field staffs,” Kumar added.

Kumar said the matter should be considered on priority basis, and effective measures need to be taken by the medical officers of Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs) and district hospitals to take the opportunity of the influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) clinics for screening of tuberculosis as well.

The clients of these clinics have similar respiratory symptoms like that of pulmonary TB, said Kumar.

Screening for TB patients should be also done during household visits and emphasize on contact tracing of TB patients, he added.

“Lab Tech will use simple PPE like hand gloves, N95 mask, face shield and plastic apron for examination of samples from Non-COVID cases,” the commissioner and secretary (health) said.

“Due to safety reason, sputum samples will not be collected from COVID-19 positive cases and people with a history of high risk exposure till molecular test result is negative for COVID,” Kumar emphasized.

Stating that Village Health & Nutrition Day (VHND) should be utilized for generating awareness on TB as well as referring TB cases for examination, Kumar asked ANMs/ASHAs to talk for few minutes on symptoms of TB.

They should also inform the people where to seek help, importance of early treatment, regular and complete treatment, respiratory hygiene, BCG vaccination and also on different schemes of the government of India for TB patients.

“Chapter on TB is included in the training module for ASHAs and ANMs and most of them are trained and retrained,” Kumar added.

The commissioner and secretary also urged all the deputy commissioners and district health and medical officers to supervise the activities as mentioned in the order.

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