Tuberculosis (TB) is both curable and preventable. It is an infection that attacks and affects the lungs which is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. TB is an air borne infection, which means that it can spread from person to person through the air. When people who are infected with the disease cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air and a non-infected person who inhales these TB germs can become infected.
Some individuals can have what is called latent TB, which means they have been infected with the TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill from the disease and cannot transmit the disease. An active TB is when an infected person falls ill after infection and can transmit the infection to others. According to WHO records, one-quarter of the world’s population have latent TB.
TB occurs in every part of the world, although some certain parts have been shown to have a higher prevalence of the disease. Records show that as at 2016, Asia has the highest prevalence of TB (about 45% of new cases) followed by Africa (25% of new cases), in which Nigeria and South Africa are the leading countries.
WHO Fact Sheet on Tuberculosis
- Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.
In 2016, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.7 million died from the disease.
- Seven countries account for 64% of the total, with India leading the count, followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Africa.
- In 2016, an estimated 1 million children became ill with TB and 250 000 children died of TB (including children with HIV associated TB).
- Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat. WHO estimates that there were 600 000 new cases with resistance to rifampicin – the most effective first-line drug, of which 490 000 had MDR-TB.
- Globally, TB incidence is falling at about 2% per year.
- Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals
Those at Risk of Infection
- TB affects all ages but mostly affects adults. Children have a lower risk due to BCG vaccination given to children at birth.
- Those living in developing countries have a higher risk of infection. They account for over 95% of new cases and death.
- Those with compromised immune system from HIV, malnutrition, diabetes or any other medical condition that incapacitates their immune system.
- Those who smoke have a higher chance of getting infected with TB and death from the infection. 8% of TB cases worldwide are attributed to smoking and tobacco use.
- Health workers who are exposed to TB patients.
What are the Symptoms of TB?
- Cough which lasts for more than 2 weeks. The cough can be productive with sputum that may or may not contain blood.
- Chest pains
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Diagnosis of Tuberculosis
Anyone experiencing the symptoms of the disease or have been exposed to possible transmission will need to be clinical diagnosed of tuberculosis infection. There are several tests that are available for detecting TB which include
- Mantaux test, in which an extract from the bacterium that causes TB is injected subdermally at the forearm and the injection site is observed after 2 days for any reaction.
- The sputum can be tested for the bacteria in a sputum smear and microscopy (Acid Fast Bacillus, AFB). This does not detect resistant TB strains.
- Rapid diagnostic kit for TB are available which can be read within 2 hours. This rapid test can detect rifampicin resistant strain.
- More recent complex and expensive diagnostic test for multidrug-resistant TB and extensively drug resistant TB are now available.
- Chest X-rays and CT scan can be used to detect the extent of TB inflammation on the lungs.
Is Tuberculosis Curable?
Yes, TB is curable. Active drug susceptible TB is treated with a standard 6 months course of 4 antimicrobial drugs. An estimated 53 million lives have been saved through TB diagnosis and treatment worldwide between 2000 – 2016.
Report to the hospital if there are any symptoms of TB or suspected case, where you will be referred to the TB clinics for direct observed treatment by the healthcare workers and everything will be alright and the treatment course is adhered to.
How to Prevent Spreading TB
There are general measures you can take to prevent spreading TB to others, keeping your loved ones and your community safe against tuberculosis.
- Avoid contact with other people by now going to school, work or any public place where people are gathered.
- Do not stay/share the room with anybody during an active infection with TB and create good ventilation in the room.
- Wear face mask or cover mouth properly when coughing.
- Ensure to complete the TB treatment by adhering faithfully to the treatment course.
- Get vaccinated and ensure that new born babies get vaccinated against TB.
You will be playing your part and as individual in the global fight to end the TB world epidemic by following the preventive measures of spreading TB when infected and making the awareness available to those who may have the infection around you.