Tuberculosis or TB is a major health concern in India. In 2019 WHO report, India had an estimated 2.64 Million cases, that is a rate of about 193 cases for every 100,000 population. On this World Tuberculosis day, let us understand what is TB – what are its symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention.
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease that usually attacks your lungs and is caused by a type of bacteria. It draws its name from the bacteria that causes it – Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is important to note that while lungs is the most commonly affected organ, TB is also known to affect other parts of your body including your brain or spine.
There are two kinds of TB – Latent and Active.
Latent (meaning hidden) TB essentially is the condition where though you are infected and have the germs, your immune system is able to prevent it from spreading. In this condition, a person is neither symptomatic nor contagious. However, the infection is in your body and can become active any day. This type of TB also needs to be medicated, but is for obvious reasons, difficult to find.
Active TB, on the contrary, is the condition where in the bacteria multiplies in your body and makes you sick. The infection manifests the symptoms. Persons with active TB are also highly contagious.
Apart from this classification, TB is also sometimes classified as drug resistant. As the name suggests, this is the condition where in the disease is resistant to drugs. Such a condition requires a prolonged treatment where your physician would give you something of a cocktail of various drugs.
- Cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks
- Chest pain
- Feeling fatigued most of the time
- Night sweats and chills
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
Remember, latest TB has no symptoms but can be detected by a skin or a blood test.
TB Causes and Treatment
As mentioned earlier, TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacterium. The infection is a droplet infection. A person infected can transmit the disease when he coughs, sneezes, talks, laughs or sings.
As a contagious disease, you can get it from an infected person. If you work in a hospital or a nursing home, you can get it as well.
People with diabetes, severe kidney disease, cancer, low body weight or essentially anyone with compromised immune system is at a higher risk of contracting the disease easily. These people are also likely to suffer from long term complications.
Treatment of Tuberculosis
In India, the first treatment is usually an eight week regime. If diagnosed, your doctor would prescribe you the combination of Isoniazid (H), Rifampicin (R), Pyrazinamide (Z) and Ethambutol (E) called the HREZ. People diagnosed with TB should diligently complete the dosage. Skipping even one dose can lead to upsetting the entire treatment.
India is one of the countries with highest TB load. To counter the disease, the government launched the DOTS program. DOTS or Directly observed Therapy Short Term) essentially is when the patient takes the prescribed medicine in front of a DOTS agent or volunteer. This ensures that the person does not miss any dose and completes the course.
The old saying of prevention is better than cure cannot be emphasized enough. Tuberculosis can have severe implications on your health. People with underlying conditions may suffer from the ill effects of TB much after the infection is gone.
But how to prevent? Following basic, washing your hands, eating properly and maintaining distance from an infected person is the key. BCG vaccine, which is part of the mandatory immunization program, also helps against the infection.