Screening and testing for tuberculosis (TB) has drastically dropped in Meghalaya due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A health official on July 21 said that very few people are coming forward to get themselves tested for TB which is still a major killer in the region.

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“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient attendance in general OPD has reduced almost to less than a half of regular days due to different government advisories, protocols, lockdown and fear of contracting COVID-19. These factors have, in spite of laboratory remaining fully operational, reduced sputum examination and TB case notification,” Commissioner and Secretary, Health and Family Welfare department, Sampath Kumar, stated on July 21.

“Field activities of health workers has also significantly gone down or completely halted leading to reduction in referral of presumptive TB cases from field staffs,” he pointed out, urging health authorities to augment the process of screening for TB.

In an order, Kumar said the matter should be considered on priority basis and effective measures to be taken by the medical officers of primary health centre, community health centre and district hospital to take the opportunity of the influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI).

Furthermore, the order stated that clinics for screening of tuberculosis as well, because the clients of these clinics have similar respiratory symptoms like that of pulmonary TB. Screening for TB patients should be also done during household visits. Emphasize on contact tracing of TB patients.

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“Lab Tech will use simple PPE like hand gloves, N95 mask, face shield and plastic apron for examination of samples from non-COVID cases. Due to safety reasons, 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-19,” the order laid down.

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