World Tuberculosis Day observed on March 24 every year is aimed at building awareness about this deadly epidemic claiming millions of lives, across the globe.
According to recent statistics, tuberculosis causes more than a million deaths worldwide each year and it is mostly found in developing nations. World Heath Organization has stated that India bears a large burden of world’s tuberculosis rate and continues to be a major health issue in the country.
Tuberculosis or TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In many cases, one can acquire the bacteria unknowingly and it can reside in the body in an inactive state. The active tuberculosis starts once the bacteria becomes active, showing the signs and symptoms.
It is a general assumption that tuberculosis happens only in lungs but that’s not true. It can occur in other parts of the body like lymph nodes, kidney, bones, joints even on skin. However, 80% of the cases are pulmonary.
What Causes TB?
Mycobacterium tuberculosis spreads through the body only if a person has an active TB infection. It usually affects those with weaker immune system. Children, senior citizens are at the high risk of tuberculosis and it starts spreading into air sacs and then to lungs.
Pollution is another major reason that can spread TB infection. In addition, if you get in contact with a person suffering from active TB infection and can get contagious through coughing, sneezing and even by talking.
Signs and Symptoms:
The usual symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, chills, weight loss and severe coughing that lasts for more than a month with sputum.
How Is It Diagnosed:
Tuberculosis is diagnosed after running a battery of tests including a chest x-ray, lab tests for sputum and blood and a Mantoux test.
Known as tuberculin sensitivity test, a standard dose of 5 tuberculin units gets injected on the hand, intradermally and the reactions are read between 48 to 72 hours. The reaction is based on diameter of the hardened, red area also known as induration. An induration above 5 mm is positive of TB.
The treatment usually consists a combination of antibiotics and the number of drugs is proportionate the patient’s weight. The duration of the treatment can be anywhere between 6 to 9 months.
Patients are expected to take drugs as per the schedule to avoid failure of the treatment.