On March 24th, 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced the cause of tuberculosis – the bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Exactly hundred years later in 1982, the World Health Organization (WHO), declared March 24th as the World Tuberculosis Day to spread awareness about this ancient global epidemic. Unfortunately, India has the highest number of new tuberculosis cases in the entire world as per 2016 WHO report.
In order to control this epidemic, it’s important to know tuberculosis better:
What is tuberculosis and how is it spread? Tuberculosis is a highly contagious and infectious disease that can lead to death if not treated properly in time. It is an airborne disease which spreads inhaling infected air. The germs are dispersed in the air when a TB infected person sneezes, coughs, talks, laughs and sings. It cannot spread through bodily contact – handshakes, sharing food, etc.
Is a positive tuberculin skin test a matter of worry? A positive skin test or TB blood test only shows that TB bacteria are present in your body. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the disease. Such a condition is called latent TB – a condition when you don’t experience any TB symptoms and is not contagious. You may still need to get the TB treatment to prevent the disease from occurring.
Only if the chest X-ray and Sputum Culture test turn out to be positive, it means you are infected. This is known as active TB which is highly contagious, dangerous and needs immediate treatment.
Why does tuberculosis affect the lungs mostly? Although TB can occur in the spine (Pott’s disease) and the brain (TB meningitis), TB of the lungs (pulmonary TB) is the most common type. This is because our lungs are abundant with blood and oxygen – two conditions that facilitate the growth of these bacteria.
What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?
Loss of appetite
Pulmonary TB Symptoms:
Shortness of breathing
Coughing out blood
Coughing for 3 weeks or more
TB Meningitis Symptoms:
Who are at risk of contracting tuberculosis?
These factors increase the chances of the occurrence of TB disease:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Weak immunity (babies and young children at risk)
Treatments like chemotherapy
Can tuberculosis be prevented and cured?
Yes. BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccine is an effective preventive measure, especially for babies and children. While dealing with an infected person wear a mask and avoid closed and stuffy areas. The patients should take their treatment seriously without any break — 6 to 9 months for normal TB and 20+ months for multi-drug resistant TB.
Medical expenses can be exhausting and unpredictable. A health insurance can be very helpful during such medical emergencies.