Tuberculosis is a contagious and infectious disease that usually affects the lungs and is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium. According to WHO,Tuberculosis (TB) is a top infectious disease killer worldwide and in 2014, 9.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died from the disease. It is also considered a leading killer of HIV-positive people: in 2015, 1 in 3 HIV deaths was due to TB, globally.
It is spread through the air when a person infected with TB coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs or talks. You can be a victim if you come in contact with the infected air and if your immune system is weak, you would be more susceptible to the infection. It is a popular belief that it affects only the lungs, but the fact is that it can infect any organ of the body.
What are the most common symptoms of TB?
- Wet cough
- Loss of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the kidneys back aches or chest pain
The symptoms of active TB include loss of weight, fever, night sweats, chronic cough, blood-tinged sputum.
What are the risk factors for TB?
Most of the people develop TB when they get infected and their immune system fails to fight the tuberculin bacteria. Some may get ill years later when their immunity drops down due to other causes. People with a strong immune system can contract TB after their latent phase is over. But people with compromised immune systems due to certain infections such as HIV/AIDS can be more susceptible to be infected with TB.
There are two categories of high risk for developing TB
- Individuals who are recently infected with tuberculin bacteria
- Individual with compromised immune system due to other reasons
How is TB spread?
Tb is a contagious disease; it is an air borne disease that can be spread when a TB infected person sneezes, coughs, speaks, or sings. These droplets travel through air and infect the people around. Therefore, it is important to maintain distance from a TB infected person.
This is the reason why people working in healthcare facilities wear a mask, and people who think they are infectious must also cover their mouth with a handkerchief or tissue.
Where there is no scope for fresh air, or where there is no proper ventilation, the Tb bacteria can live for few hours. It is not adaptive for the TB bacteria to stay alive in sunlight and fresh air. As fresh air is good at scattering, the bacteria and sunlight destroy them.
However TB is not transmitted by the following activities:
- By kissing
- By hand shaking
- By using the toilet seat
- By sharing a tooth brush
- By sharing food and water
How is TB treated?
TB is curable. It is treated with a combination of drugs that has to be taken for six months. WHO recommends DOTS therapy (Directly Observed Treatment Short-course strategy) that focuses on the most effective drug that has short-term course, and a fixed drug regimen that facilitates the drug adherence and reduces the chances of drug resistance.The treatment would be effective when followed with adherence and without skipping the doses in between. But the drawback for these drugs is that they may inflict severe side effects.
How to prevent TB?
- If you are infected with TB, you will be prescribed DOTS therapy to get relieved from the devastating symptoms.
- You must take vaccines before it infects you
- If you are staying with a TB-infected person, you must take utmost care to stay distant from the infected person.
- Get proper sleep and rest.
- Use olive oil for cooking purpose.
- Include exercise as your daily routine.
- Eat the foods that are rich in vitamin B and calcium.
- De-stress yourself by practicing meditation or listening to music.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants such as turmeric, rosemary, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
- You must not include red meat in your diet.
- You must be away from junk or processed foods.
- You must avoid, eating white bread, pies, and pickles.
Though TB sounds daunting, most of the cases can be cured with the right medication. Following proper prevention techniques would surely keep you away from the deadly TB causing bacteria.