World Tuberculosis Day 2015

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi

Of the eight official global public health day campaign days marked by the WHO* is the World Tuberculosis Day. The discovery of the bacteria behind the dreaded tuberculosis (TB) - Mycobacterium tuberculosis was announced by Dr. Robert Koch in March 24, 1882. This discovery was a very important step in the control and elimination of a disease that at the time claimed the life of one in every seven people in US and Europe.

Usually, it attacks the lungs but can attack other body parts such as the kidney, spine and brain. Tuberculosis is spread through tiny droplets released into the air by infected persons. It is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food or drinks or touching bed linens. Two forms of tuberculosis-related conditions exist:

Latent TB infection: The TB bacteria in this case can’t make one sick. It is not infectious and can’t be spread to others as the body fights the bacteria and hinders it from growing. It can become active at anytime so needs to be treated.

Active TB Disease: If the body can’t stop the bacteria from multiplying, they become active. People with tuberculosis are sick and could transmit the disease.

Symptoms of tuberculosis include a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer, pain in chest, coughing up blood, fever, night sweat and weight loss. Factors that increase the risk of the disease are:

·         A weakened immune system due to disease e.g. HIV, Diabetes etc

·         Substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, tobacco)

·         Incomplete treatment of TB

Infection control and early appropriate treatments are important to prevent transmission of the disease. Complications that can arise as a result of tuberculosis are spinal pain, swelling of the meninges, liver or kidney problems, joint damage and heart disorders.

Tuberculosis is preventable and curable but could be fatal if not handled properly. Bacilli Calmetter-Gumerin (BCG) is the only vaccine available. It provides optimal protection for infants and children against the TB bacteria. Other vaccines are still being developed. Treatment for latent TB infection helps to eliminate the bacteria before it progresses to an active state. However, medication lasting six to nine months can completely treat the patient. Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) involves the administration of TB drugs by a health care worker. This aids complete treatment as the healthcare worker ensures complete and effective drug administration.  Incomplete treatment can result in the bacteria becoming resistant to the drug. These resistant bacteria can also be transmitted the same way the susceptible bacteria are transmitted.

World TB Day can only be a celebration after TB is completely eradicated. Reach, Treat and Cure Everyone! – World TB Day 2015.

*World Health Organization


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