Tuberculosis (or TB) is an infection that may spread from person to person, especially with close and constant contact. It may affect any part of the body, but tends to affect the lungs most often. However, bones, kidneys, glands, and the occasionally tissue around the brain may be affected as well.
Why Be Aware of TB?
In days gone past, about 50% of all persons afflicted with TB died – however, with modern medicine the incidence of TB has dropped dramatically. The risk of TB starting and spreading within our population is stil present and therefore we must work to keep this disease under control.
What Does TB Do?
TB is caused by bacteria, mycobacterium tuberculae that a person takes into their body usually through the lungs. This bacteria congregates and reproduces within the lungs and may:
- start destroying the lungs
- spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body
- be unable to counter the body’s defense and remain dormant for many years before suddenly reactivating
What Are The Symptoms?
TB can manifest as a general feeling of unwellness but this may be easiliy confused with many other illness. Generally, the following can be seen:
- loss of weight
- a general feeling of tiredness (malaise) throughout the day
- night sweats
- coughing for days on end, usually more than 3 weeks – this is usually accompanied by a thick spit (called phlegm). Sometimes blood is seen.
How Is The Disease Treated?
TB can almost always be cured with medicine, but the medicine must be taken as prescribed, without missing any doses. The most common drugs used to fight TB are:
- Isoniazid (INH)
You will probably need to take a combination of drugs as there are many bacteria to be killed. Taking several drugs will do a better job of killing all of the bacteria and preventing them from becoming resistant to the drugs. If you have TB of the lungs or throat, you are probably infectious. Staying home from work or school is essential so that TB bacteria isn’t spread to other people. Having TB should not stop you from leading a normal life as treatment is usually effective. B. The medicine that you are taking should not affect your strength, sexual function, or ability to work – and you should be able to do all the things you used to do.
Preventing The Spread of TB
As TB is quite an infectious disease, it is essential that any cases are treated early and the spread of the disease prevented. Seek treatment for TB immediately as the disease is easily cured in its early stages, all workmates and members of the family should be tested for TB to prevent it from spreading and in some cases babies and people at risk (e.g immuno-compromised individuals) can be immunised.
For more information on tuberculosis see the following, the CDC page has extensive information in a Frequently Asked Questions file.