Tuberculosis: Cause, Symptoms, Prevention and Cure

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs. Despite being preventable and curable, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease causing an estimated 1.6 million deaths globally in 2017.

Currently, only one in three cases of TB are currently identified and properly treated in Nigeria. The more than 300,000 undiagnosed TB patients pose public health risk in our communities.

To EndTB there needs to be increased awareness of the disease, it’s symptoms, prevention and treatment.

What is Tuberculosis 

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium infections in tissues, especially in the lungs.

TB is a highly contagious airborne disease spread through coughs and sneezes of an infected person.

Although the infection commonly attacks the lungs, the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria can also spread and infect the brain and spine of an infected individual.

Types of Tuberculosis

A person can have TB and remain unaware as there are two forms of the infection that manifest in different ways.

  • The latent form of TB occurs when the bacteria is in your body but your immune system keeps it from spreading. This means the bacteria in your body can one day become active, cause symptoms and become contagious. This can be treated by a health care professional prescribing the required dose of antibiotics to reduce the risks of latent TB becoming active.
  • TB in its active form can make you sick and contagious and is often caused by latent tuberculosis becoming activated.

How is tuberculosis spread?

The infection is spread by spending long periods in close quarters with an infected person. A short period of being exposed to the disease probably will not lead to an infection but inhaling the droplets that contain the bacteria when an infected person sneezes, coughs or laughs near you for some time will cause a higher possibility of infection. You cannot contact tuberculosis from shaking hands with an infected person or eating with them. So it is important not to discriminate against people suffering from TB.

Diagnosis

For TB Diagnosis in Nigeria we have these services

  • 9625 Dots facilities in Nigeria
  • 394 GeneXpert machines in 309 LGAs
  • 2856 microscopy centers
  • 9 Reference laboratories with capacities for LPA, Culture and DST

Although the geneXpert machines is the fastest and most reliable mode of diagnosis, able to diagnose TB under 90 minutes, there is a limited amount of these machines to cover the large population of people in Nigeria.

Risk Factors

Anyone with a healthy immune system will remain resistant to easily getting infected with TB however people with weaker immune systems like children, malnourished individuals, people suffering from HIV/AIDS, certain kinds of cancers, Diabetes, Kidney illnesses and people on medication for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of tuberculosis

Symptoms only manifest in active tuberculosis patients and they include

  • Chest pain
  • Coughs that last up to three weeks
  • Constant fatigue
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night Sweats
  • Low appetite

Treatment

Majority of TB cases can be cured when the right medication is available and administered correctly. The precise type and length of antibiotic treatment depends on a person’s age, overall health, potential resistance to drugs, whether the TB is latent or active, and the location of infection (i.e., the lungs, brain, kidneys).

 

Prevention

A few general measures can be taken to prevent the spread of active TB.

  • Avoiding overcrowding will help to minimize the risk of germs from reaching anyone else.
  • Wearing a mask, covering the mouth, and ventilating rooms
  • TB vaccination (BCG injections) can be given to children to protect them against tuberculosis.
  • Follow prescribed courses of medication to reduce the risk of resistance, MDR-TB bacteria are far deadlier than regular TB bacteria.

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