BALLARI: While Covid-19 has taken centre stage, cases of tuberculosis have swelled. At 9%, the iron-rich districts of Ballari and Vijayanagar have the highest tuberculosis (TB) fatality rate in the state, and the two districts also figure in the top-10 across the nation, figures from the TB Control Board under the Union ministry of health show.
The fatality rate in the two districts is well above the country’s average of 5% and the state’s average of 6% and shows a staggering five-fold rise in the past nine months. In contrast, the Covid-19 fatality rate is just 1.7%.
In the past nine months – from January to September – the two districts have had 3,407 TB notifications and 247 (7.2%) deaths. As many as 1,170 patients have recovered, while 1,966 patients are still under treatment. District health authorities are unsure of the whereabouts of the remaining 24.
Authorities say people with symptoms are refusing to come forward and get treated because of the fear of being mistaken for Covid-19. The Union government had set a goal of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025, but that now seems ambitious given low detection and fear of Covid-19. Sources say, a joint supportive supervision (JSS) team comprising seven members from the Centre and state visited the districts recently to review the situation. The team has asked the district to take steps to curb the fatality rate.
“Ballari taluk has had 93 TB deaths, the highest,” said an official from the district TB control office. “The death rate is five times that of Covid-19. TB patients who have comorbidities such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are at a higher risk of dying.”
Dr LH Janardhan, district health officer, said one reason for the spike in TB cases is fear of Covid-19. People are not willing to come forward and get tested and treated. “Many come in the final stages which is pushing the death rate up,” he said.

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