Every year, World Tuberculosis Day is recognized on March 24th, to address the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the TB bacillus. According to WHO reports, a total of 1.5 million had lost their lives to Tuberculosis(TB) in 2018. TB is one of the top 10 causes of mortality and can easily spread from a single infectious agent.
TB:- How does it Occur?
TB is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium Tuberculosis which usually directly affects the lungs and spreads like wildfire to other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidney, and spine. What many people are ignorant about is, TB is curable and preventable.
TB is an airborne disease ONLY. Hence when people around you cough or sneeze, the germ is released into the air and if you inhale a small portion of germs, you can get easily infected.
Types of TB:-
- Latent TB:- Around 1/4th of the world’s population is diagnosed with latent TB, which means they have been infected by TB bacteria but have still not been hit by the disease; and therefore cannot transmit it to anybody else.
- Active TB:- Even if people infected with TB bacteria, there is a 5-15% chance that they’ll be befallen with the disease in a lifetime. The ones that do, are said to have active TB. Usually, the people who have very low immunity are those indulge in tobacco use, or those with prior history of HIV, malnutrition, and diabetes are more prone to active TB
Symptoms of TB:-
A person infected with active TB disease may not display any symptoms for a very long time. This further delays the timely identification and treatment; resulting in the transmission of the disease to other people.
There are various symptoms for TB:-
- Cough lasting up to 3 weeks or longer; mostly spitting blood or mucus
- Weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Night Sweats
- Chest Ache
There are two forms of tests carried out for diagnosing TB. Although, it is not possible to determine whether the individual is affected with Active or Latent TB.
- Blood Test:- Also known as interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs), this test measures the response when TB proteins are mixed with a small sample of your blood.
- Skin Test:- Also known as the Mantoux tuberculin skin test, here you are injected with a small amount of fluid into the skin of your lower arm. After a couple of days, swelling in your arm is checked for.
If the results turn positive, there is a high chance you’ve got TB.
Once a person is tested positive, they are taken for an X-Ray or CT Scan to check for any changes in the lungs. The Sputum is also tested for the presence of TB bacteria. This helps to detect whether the TB is latent or Active.
If you’re affected with latent TB, you’re given medications to kill the bacteria. But if you have active TB, you’re prescribed to take a combination of medications, that need to be taken without fail for a period of 4-7 months. Completion of medication is extremely necessary to avoid the odds of relapsing.
As of now, there are 10 medications/drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for TB Treatment. The first-line anti-TB drugs forming the core of treatment routines are as under:-
- Isoniazid (INH)
- Rifampin (RIF)
- Ethambutol (EMB)
- Pyrazinamide (PZA)
There is another type of TB that is immune to the drugs, i.e., drug-resistant TB. Treatment of Drug-Resistant TB and curing it is quite complicated. It should be efficiently and acutely managed only by an expert in the illness.
TB prevention is possible if you maintain distance from known TB patients. If you are in places with more TB counts such as the US, go for a blood test before leaving the states.
Superstitions and myths around TB
- TB is not a family curse nor it comes from witchcraft. It is more likely to be spread among people living in close proximity, simply because TB is an airborne disease.
- Women are not the only source of TB. Them being divorced or not being able to conceive a child has nothing to do with the illness.
- HIV, poverty, drug, and alcohol misuse are not the root causes of TB. It can befall anyone, regardless of their Habits.
- TB is not spread through spitting or sharing the same cutlery. One needs to be exposed to TB droplets in the air for a long duration, i.e., about eight hours or more, to get affected by the disease.
Due to the fear of getting shunned from society, people with prominent TB symptoms delay in seeking help or going for a health checkup. This makes them more ill and increases the chances of contaminating it to others. Again, it is also believed that not TB, but the TB treatment, is fatal.
Tuberculosis is fatal only when not Treated. If medications are taken on time, it can be cured.