Tuberculosis or TB, is an infection caused by bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These bacteria infect the body and affect the lungs. However, they may also spread to the:
These type of tuberculosis are called extra-pulmonary tuberculosis
What are the symptoms?
Prolonged cough (lasting more than 3 weeks)
Phlegm or blood in cough
Shortness of breath
Unintentional weight loss
Loss of appetite
What are the types of tuberculosis?
LATENT (INACTIVE) TUBERCULOSIS. People with this type of condition have TB infection, but the bacteria remain in the body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms. They cannot spread the TB bacteria to others. However, if latent TB bacteria become active in the body and multiply, the person may be sick with TB disease.
ACTIVE TUBERCULOSIS. People with this type of condition has TB bacteria that are rapidly multiplying and cause symptoms.
How tuberculosis spread?
TB bacteria is an airborne disease; spread from an infected person to an uninfected person through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs, sneezes or even talking.
Who are at risk for tuberculosis?
Extreme ages (babies and elderly)
Those with a compromised immune system, such as those on chemotherapy, transplant medications, HIV/AIDS or diabetes
People living in an unsanitary environment
People working or living with someone infected with tuberculosis
What is the treatment and its importance?
Tuberculosis can be treated with a cocktail of medications. The treatment includes oral medications that must be taken several times throughout the day. The total duration of treatment is six months or longer.
It is important not to stop or miss the doses as it can allow the alive bacteria to become resistant to the drugs, leading to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis which is more dangerous and difficult to treat.
To help people be compliant to their treatment, a program called directly observed therapy short-course (DOTS) is recommended. This approach allows a healthcare worker to watch the patient swallow the medication for all doses over the course of treatment. This ensures the patient takes the correct drugs, correct dose and at the correct times.
When to see a doctor?
See your doctor if you experience persistent cough, fever, unexplained weight loss, or night sweats.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends those with an increased risk of tuberculosis to be screened for latent TB infection. This includes those who:
Are IV drug users
Are from countries with high rates of tuberculosis
Live or work in an overcrowded area
Work in healthcare centre and treat people with a high risk of tuberculosis
Are children exposed to adults at risk of tuberculosis
Can tuberculosis be prevented?
If you have active TB infection, ensure you finish your entire course of medication.
Stay at home and do not sleep with other people in the same room. This is because it generally takes a few weeks of treatment with TB medications before you are not contagious anymore.
Cover your mouth using a tissue anytime you cough or sneeze. Then, put the dirty tissue in a bag, seal it and discard it.
Wear a mask when you are around people especially during the first three weeks of treatment.
Visit your doctor to be informed of your tuberculosis status.
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