What you need to know about TB

by Symptom Advice on September 1, 2011

AT least 30% to 40% of people with AIDS in the world also have tuberculosis, the most common opportunistic disease also to infect people whose immunise system has been compromised or destroyed by AIDS.  AIDS opens the door and TB walks through.South Africa and Swaziland have the world’s highest TB prevalence rate, and for this reason alone people here should become more aware of the disease.  unlike HIV infection, which for the most part is contracted only through unprotected sex, TB is only a sneeze away.  When someone who is sick with TB coughs or sneezes, they can infect others.When people suffering from active pulmonary TB cough, sneeze, speak, sing or spit, they expel infectious (and so small as to be invisible to the naked eye) aerosol droplets. a single sneeze can release up to 40 000 droplets.  each one of these droplets may transmit the disease, since the infectious dose of tuberculosis is very low and inhaling fewer than ten bacteria may cause an infection.TreatedAIDS has no cure.  TB can be treated.  But the best plan is to avoid TB entirely.  This would require more thorough TB testing of the population, and putting TB patients on treatment immediately.  TB patients would have to do their part to prevent the spread of the disease by covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze as well as avoid close contact with people while their TB is active.  TB travels through the air on droplets projected when a TB person speaks, sneezes or coughs, so common sense regarding these activities (yes, even singing can spread TB!) should be practised.TB patients are sometimes isolated from the rest of the population to reduce the risk of the disease’s spread.  This was one reason why Swaziland’s new TB hospital was considered essential in a country with such a high TB prevalence rate.TB usually attacks the lungs of infected people, but can also infect other parts of the body.  Most times a person newly infected with TB will not know it, because the disease at first is “latent,” without any symptoms.  However, if TB is not identified, it will become an active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than half of the people it “attacks.”those symptoms, as reported in last week’s column, resemble those of a very severe flu: heavy and persistent (chronic) cough, sometimes producing blood in the sputum, fever, night sweats and weight loss.as said before, treatment is available.  But it is long because TB treatment requires long-term consumption of several types of antibiotics.  Of course, newer strains of multiple drug resistant TB are making conventional treatment difficult. This is bad news, because already an astonishing one-third of the world’s population is believed to be infected by TB, with a new infection striking every second.  it is important to note that the world’s infection rate is stable – a certain percentage of people (as said before over a third of the world’s population) is infected, and this is not rising.  However, the world’s population is rising, so there are actually more people with TB.TB is more prevalent in developing countries like South Africa and Swaziland than in the developed world, where TB cases are usually associated with people living with AIDS.  while TB is the most prevalent disease infected Swazis living with HIV and AIDS, it is also infecting HIV-negative people amongst the general population to such a degree that even if there was no AIDS in the country TB would remain the top public health threat.80% of the populations of Asia and Africa test positive for TB.  in the United States, 5% to 10% of the population tests positive for TB, although that number is alarming to U.S. health officials.in the U.S., TB mostly infects older adults.  in Africa, however, TB mostly infects children in their teens (adolescents) and young adults.one important fact we must remember in Swaziland is that people who are in frequent contact with TB patients are more at risk of acquiring the disease.  People who have intense or intimate contact with TB patients are at risk.  People who have frequent contact with TB patients are at risk.  These factors account for the spread of the disease in Swaziland, even amongst the HIV-negative population.Poverty is an underlying contributor to the spread of TB.  Living quarters in Swaziland are often intimate as people share rooms, even beds, and often rooms are not well ventilated.  Unaware that a sneeze or cough from a TB patient is not the same as a sneeze or cough from someone with a simple head cold (although any sneeze or cough should be avoided by others and suppressed by the person sneezing or coughing), some people do not take simple precautions.  one study found that people with prolonged, frequent or intense contact with TB patients are at particularly high risk of becoming infected, and amongst this group it is estimated that more than one in five (22%) become infected with TB. Caretakers of people living with HIV and AIDS who suffer from TB as well are at risk, and should take precautions and be tested for TB.Health care workers in general, particularly in Swaziland, are also at risk.HIV-positive people are at risk, and should be tested for TB at the first sign of symptoms, or even as a precaution.ContributesSmoking also contributes to TB infection.  Smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day makes the smoker two to four times more likely to become infected with TB.  Smoking destroys lung tissues, and makes the organ more susceptible to diseases like TB and cancer.  Finally, a person in jail is more likely to become infected with TB than someone in another environment.  one study found: “Prisoners, especially in poor countries, are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB.  Prisons provide conditions that allow TB to spread rapidly, due to overcrowding, poor nutrition and a lack of health services.  Since the early 1990s, TB outbreaks have been reported in prisons in many countries in Eastern Europe.  the prevalence of TB in prisons is much higher than among the general population – in some countries as much as 40 times higher.” 

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