World TB (Tuberculosis) Day is observed on the 24th of March every year. The theme for this year’s TB day is: Unite to End TB.
The idea of World TB Day was conceived with an aim to increase awareness about the epidemic that tuberculosis is and, focuses on the multi-pronged efforts to eradicate the disease completely. World TB Day is one of the eight WPH (World Public Health) campaigns observed by WHO (World Health Organization).
Let’s get down to the basics:
What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis or TB is a contagious disease that affects our lungs. Tuberculosis causing bacteria get transmitted from one person to another via the droplets that are released into the air from sneezing or coughing.
Incidences of Tuberculosis have been on the rise since 1985, primarily because of an increase in HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. This is because the Human Immunodeficiency Virus impairs the immune system, thus making it very difficult to combat TB. However, the problem is that various strains of this disease are slowly becoming drug resistant. Hence, acute cases of tuberculosis need to be controlled with medications administered over a long period of time to cure the problem and prevent drug resistance.
Active TB and Latent TB
- Active TB: This condition is contagious and poses health risks to the sufferer. This can either develop within the first few weeks of getting infected with the bacteria or might also take years to show up.
- Latent TB: Here, one might already be infected with the bacteria, but the same could remain in a passive way and not cause any noteworthy symptom. Latent TB, that is also referred to as TB infection or inactive TB, isn’t contagious. Nevertheless, treatment is absolutely essential, lest the condition progresses to active TB.
What are the common symptoms?
- Prolonged coughing (usually that persists for more than 21 days)
- Oozing blood while coughing
- Pain in the chest (or pain while coughing or breathing)
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Chills during the night
- Sweating during the night
Other parts of the body such as the brain, spine or the kidneys can also be affected by Tuberculosis. The symptoms often vary in accordance with the organs that are affected. For example, tuberculosis of the spine may result in back pain, whereas when the kidneys get affected, the most common symptom is hematuria (presence of blood in urine).
When do you need to consult a doctor?
In case of symptoms such as weight loss that happen all of a sudden, night sweats, fever accompanied by fatigue and cough that persists for well over three weeks, consulting the doctor right away would be the wisest decision to take.
Note– Though Tuberculosis is contagious, it doesn’t spread very easily. Chances arethat you will contract this disorder only if you have been working with or living with somebody who has been suffering from the same; rather than a complete stranger. Also, cases of Active TB cease to be contagious once they’ve been administered medications over a period of two weeks.
Then why is TB a major killer?
This is because various strains of the bacterium that causes TB have become resistant to antibiotics and other drugs over time. Resistance to drugs arises when a specific antibiotic fails to destroy all the bacteria that it is supposed to. The bacteria that survive soon develop resistance to the particular antibiotic and other drugs as well. So much so, that some of the most common forms of treatment such as rifampin and isoniazid have come a cropper owing to the drug resistance.
Tell me about the risk factors
Some of the common risk factors are:
- Impaired immunity (caused due to conditions such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, types of cancers and their treatment, malnutrition, kidney disorders, etc.)
- Substance abuse or living in poverty
- Living in certain parts of the world
- Your working environment
- The place/area you stay (taking hygiene into consideration)
Could there be other complications arising from TB?
As common a condition that it is, without proper and timely treatment, TB can prove to be fatal. Some of the bigger complications include:
- Pain in the spine
- Damage to the joints
- Meningitis (Swelling and inflammation of the membranes covering the brain)
- Problems of the kidneys or liver
- Heart diseases
Diagnosis at a glance
The common diagnostic tests include sputum test, blood test (T-Spot Test and QuantiFERON-TB Gold in-Tube test) and imaging tests (CT scan, chest X-ray).
How do you treat TB?
Treating TB takes a lot more time and patience on the part of the sufferer as compared to other bacterial infections; having said that, medications form the cornerstone for its resolution and treatment. Antibiotics will have to be administered to the individual over a long drawn time period of anywhere between six to nine months, depending on factors such as the type of TB (Active or Latent), overall health of the patient, age, possibilities of antibiotic resistance and the location of TB (the organs that are affected). Most commonly used drugs for treating TB include:
In case of tuberculosis that has become drug resistant, a combination of injectable medicines and fluoroquinolones will constitute the treatment plan.
But keep in mind that:
You will have to complete the entire course of TB medications even if you start feeling better after the first few weeks. Discontinuing the treatment prematurely or skipping on the correct doses can result in the surviving bacteria turning antibiotic resistant, which is obviously way more difficult to treat.
How can you prevent TB from developing?
- Make sure you aren’t confined to closed and stuffy rooms with a patient of Active TB unless he/she has received treatment for at least 15 days.
- Wear protective gear such as face masks if you are employed in a care home that treats patients with Active TB
- If you have been living with a patient of Active TB, guide him/her along the proper treatment path.
- Get yourself vaccinated with the BCG vaccine in order to prevent TB
- And lastly, living a healthy life where you follow a proper diet, get sufficient sleep (around 7-8 hours), exercise almost every day of the week, cut down on alcohol consumption and smoking and follow personal hygiene.
Many diseases can be prevented, if adequate preventive and care measures are adopted without delay. The same holds true for TB. For all your TB and other health related concerns, download the Portea mobile app and chat with a doctor for free.