What is TB?
TB stands for Tuberculosis as it is caused by either of the two bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Mycobacterium Bovis. These pathogens reside inside the living human lung cells. The main infection starts from the lung cells and then it can spread as far as the bone tissues and even the whole body. If an infected person spits, sneezes, or coughs without covering his nose and mouth the germs are released in the air. This can cause germ transfer among other people, the good news is that it can be cured and prevented. The main method of transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is through airborne droplets.
Active and inactive TB
Bacteria can remain inactive in some people for several years, while some people get infected and develop TB right away. People who are in the inactive phase of TB don’t show any symptoms and also don’t spread the disease to other people. When people with inactive bacteria suffer from malnutrition or become weakened by other diseases like HIV then the bacteria can become active. Those who have an active form of TB show symptoms that are mentioned below.
HIV and TB
TB is the leading cause of death among HIV-positive people. HIV infection can also reactivate dormant infection of M. Tuberculosis, which is why the HIV pandemic and TB pandemic are related.
Transmission of TB
Transmission of TB can only be caused by people with the active form of TB
- Coughing or sneezing causes bacteria to be carried in the air in the form of tiny droplets.
- Uninfected people inhaling these droplets.
- High chance of transmission among people living in overcrowded regions.
- A large number of people who are sleeping close together.
- Easy victims of TB are those who are malnutritioned, are HIV positive, are living in substandard housing, having a weak immune system.
- Immigrants coming from a country where there is a high rate of active TB cases.
Prevention of TB
- Avoid using public transportation.
- If you know someone who has TB don’t visit them until they are no longer infected.
- Even if you don’t have TB, always cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
- Wash your hands after coming from the outdoors.
- If you’ve TB don’t invite other people to your house or go to their house.
- Complete your medication course at all costs.
- Use fans or windows to keep the fresh air moving.
Is there a vaccine for TB?
The vaccine for TB is called BCG which stands for Bacille Calmette-Guérin. It can protect up to 70-80% of people who receive it. Mostly it is given to infants or children who live in countries where TB is common. The UK and the USA don’t include this vaccine in their immunization program.
Importance of completing your medication course:
If you don’t complete your medications TB is not completely treated or eliminated from your body. Stopping treatment just because you feel cured is not a smart move, it increases the chances of mutation starting again as the bacteria in your body survives and multiplies. M. Tuberculosis then develops resistance to the drugs used. So people who don’t complete their course can infect other people with a much stronger form of the same bacteria called the drug-resistant form of TB.
Signs and symptoms:
- A cough that can last for more than three weeks
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Unintentional Weight loss
- Coughing up blood or mucus can be a cause of TB of the lungs
- If TB has spread to your bones it can also cause bone pain
- Chest pain
- Chest pain associated with coughing or breathing
Tuberculosis Tests and Diagnosis
There are two common tests for TB
- Skin test: The Mantoux tuberculin test can be used to test for M. tuberculosis bacteria. In your lower arm, a small amount of fluid called tuberculin is injected. Within the next 48 to 72 hours doctors will check for swelling in that region if there’s swelling which means you have TB. The amount of swelling determines its significance. Keep in mind that this skin test can be wrong you can be diagnosed as TB positive when you really don’t have it. This is called false-negative and false-positive tests.
- Blood test: This test confirms latent or active TB in your body. It can measure your immune reaction and strength against TB bacteria.
You can have symptoms mentioned above but it’s best to not self-diagnose and go to your doctor to get it checked. Prevention is always better than cure, make sure you’re cautious so that you not only save yourself but your closed ones from TB too.