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All about Tuberculosis

It’s a startling fact: 36% of all Tuberculosis (TB) deaths occur in Africa1, but the good news is that TB can be treated and cured.

 

How do you get TB? 2

TB is caused by bacteria that can spread from one person to another when they cough or sneeze. In other words, the TB germs are passed through the air when someone who is sick with TB disease coughs or sneezes.  If you breathe the air that has TB germs, you may get a TB infection.

 

Types of TB 3

  • Latent TB means that a person has TB bacteria in their body, but they are not causing any symptoms and the person cannot spread the disease to others. However, it’s still important to treat latent TB because it can become active and make the person sick later on.
  • Active TB, also known as TB disease, is when the bacteria in a person’s body have become active and are making them sick. This can happen weeks or even years after the person was first infected with TB bacteria. Active TB can be contagious and spread to others, so it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible.

 

Symptoms of active TB 3

  • A cough that lasts for three weeks or longer
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Chest pain, or pain when you breathe or cough
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue (a feeling of extreme tiredness, weakness, and lack of energy)
  • Fever
  • Night sweats (sweating a lot while you’re asleep even if the room is cool)
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

 

Treatment

If you have latent TB and are at a high risk of developing active TB, your doctor may suggest taking medicine to prevent it from becoming active. For active TB, antibiotics are necessary for at least six to nine months. The type of medication and length of treatment will vary depending on your age, general health, whether the TB bacteria are resistant to certain drugs, and where in your body the infection is located. 4

 

While you are being treated for TB, your doctor may ask you to do some tests such as blood, phlegm, and urine tests, and x-rays from time to time to check if the medication is working as it should. You may also need to wear a mask over your mouth and nose to prevent spreading germs and avoid spending time in close spaces with others. 2

 

After a few weeks of taking your TB medication, you won’t be contagious (able to spread TB to others) anymore and you might start to feel better. Even though you feel better, it’s very important to keep taking your TB medication until your doctor tells you to stop. If you are unsure about anything, speak to your doctor. 5

 

Important Do’s and Don’ts

If you have active TB, follow these guidelines. 5

Do:

  • Take your medication exactly the way your doctor has told you
  • Stick to a routine to help you remember to take your medicine. For example, when you brush your teeth every morning.
  • Use a tissue every time you sneeze or cough. Then put the used tissue into a plastic bag, seal it and throw it away.
  • Open the windows in your room whenever possible to let air flow through.
  • Stay in a separate room to your family so that you don’t infect them too.

Don’t:

  • Don’t go to work or school until your doctor says it’s safe.
  • Don’t visit friends or family.
  • Don’t stop taking your medicine, even if you are feeling better.
  • Don’t drink alcohol during treatment 6

 

References

1 https://www.afro.who.int/regional-director/speeches-messages/world-tb-day-2022

2 https://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/pamphlets/tb_disease_en_rev.pdf

3 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351250

4 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351256

5 https://www.webmd.com/lung/what-you-must-do-if-you-have-tb

6 https://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/faqs/tb-qa.htm