Tuberculosis (TB) is among the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide. TB symptoms may seem similar to other diseases which is why it is not detected by many individuals. The United Nations has a goal of ending the TB epidemic by 2030 as a part of the health goals in the Sustainable Development Goals. However, for this to be possible, we need to know the symptoms of this deadly disease.
Tuberculosis is an airborne disease; it spreads when one inhales contaminated air when individuals with active tuberculosis in their lungs sneeze, cough, spit, or even speak. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB incidences reduce by around 2% every year. However, this reduction rate needs to increase in order to achieve the 2020 End TB strategy milestones.
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How do you get TB?
What are tuberculosis causes? TB is caused by a bacteria referred to as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB spreads when infected individual coughs or sneezes and someone else inhales the expelled droplets.
Types of TB
There are two types of TB
1. Latent TB
This type of tuberculosis is also known as inactive TB or TB infection, and is not contagious. In this case, an individual is infected with tuberculosis but exhibits no symptoms since the bacteria is in an inactive state. This type can turn into active TB thus it is crucial to seek medical help which will in turn help in curbing the spread of this deadly disease. It is estimated that around 2 billion people have latent TB.
2. Active tuberculosis
In this case, an individual is sick and can spread TB to others.
TB symptoms and treatment
Detecting early symptoms of TB is important in both treatment and preventing the spread of the disease. The transmission of TB is through the air thus it is important that infected people receive treatment early.
Signs and symptoms of TB
What are the symptoms of TB? What is the first sign of TB? The symptoms of TB are noticeable but they may be mistaken for other diseases if one is not keen. TB bacteria affects the lungs and can cause the following tuberculosis symptoms:
- A severe cough that lasts for 3 weeks or longer
- Chest pains
- Cough with sputum or blood
How do you know if you have TB symptoms? Apart from the above red flags, other symptoms of tuberculosis are:
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Sweating at night
- No appetite
If you exhibit any signs of TB, you should seek medical help immediately since the disease is highly communicable.
Can TB be cured? There are drugs for treating and curing TB. Treatment of tuberculosis takes around 6 months. Approximately 54 million people have been successfully treated between 2000 and 2017. Most TB cases are curable if an infected individual follows the doctor's instructions and takes the medicines provided properly.
Anyone can be infected with TB; however, some factors increase the chances of infection. These factors include.
1. Weakened immune system - Individuals with weak immune systems are more likely to be infected. Various conditions can weaken the immune system, for example;
- HIV/AIDs (People with HIV are 20 to 30 more times likely to develop active TB)
- Certain Cancers
2. Visiting or living in areas that have high rates of TB such as parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Russia, Latin America, and the Caribbean Islands.
3. Poverty and substance abuse - Individuals who cannot access proper healthcare are at high risk since they may not be able to diagnose and treat TB. Using Tobacco and drinking alcohol excessively also makes people vulnerable to tuberculosis.
4. Healthcare personnel who treat or care for TB patients
Complications that may arise from TB
If not treated, TB can have some ripple effects especially if it spreads through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. These complications include:
- Abdominal TB (TB that affects the gut)
- Kidney or liver problems
- Spinal pain
- Heart disorders
- Joint damage
There are various ways to prevent the spread of TB:
1. Protecting your family and friends - If you have TB, you should take precautions to ensure everyone around you is safe. These precautions include
- Wearing a mask.
- Covering your mouth when you cough, sneeze or laugh. You should also properly dispose of tissues or anything used when coughing.
- Ensuring your room is well ventilated.
- Staying home (not going to work or school). One can isolate themselves when infected to avoid spreading the disease to others.
2. Make sure you finish your entire course of medication. Not finishing treatment can make the TB bacteria evolve and become drug resistant.
3. Vaccinations - Ensure that infants get vaccinated with bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG).
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South Africa is among the eight countries that account for two-thirds of new TB cases worldwide. The other countries are India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. If you have any TB symptoms or signs, please visit the nearest hospital for treatment and help prevent the spread of TB infection as guided above.