World Tuberculosis Day 2021 – It’s time to end Tuberculosis (TB)

Each year, on March 24, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is commemorated to inform the public of Tuberculosis’s disastrous health, economic, and social consequences and raise more efforts to end the global Tuberculosis epidemic.

Tuberculosis remains to be one of the world’s most virulent infectious killers. Nearly 10,000,000 people fall ill every year globally, and 1,400,000 people lost their lives because of TB, even though this is a preventable and curable disease.

It’s also important to know that 63,000,000
lives are saved since 2000 by global efforts to end TB.

This year’s World TB Day 2021 theme is – ‘The Clock is Ticking’ – which conveys the message that we are running out of time to act strictly on the commitments to globally end the Tuberculosis epidemic.

This is exceptionally critical in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put an end to eliminate TB at risk and ensuring equitable access to prevention and care in line.

With that in mind, let’s learn more about TB, what the preventions are and what precautions to take.

What Is Tuberculosis?

TB (Tuberculosis) is an infection that is contagious and usually attacks the lungs. But it can grow to other parts of your body like, in worst cases, brain and spine. Tuberculosis is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis Types

Tuberculosis contamination doesn’t always mean you’ll get severely sick.
There are two forms of this disease:

  • Latent TB. You have Tuberculosis bacteria in your body, but your immune system keeps it from growing or spreading. Latent TB doesn’t show any symptoms, and it’s not contagious.
  • But the infection is active, and one day it can become aggressive. If you have any pre-existing conditions, for instance, HIV, that increase the risk for reactivation of TB.
  • Active Tuberculosis
  • The bacteria multiply and cause an infection inside the body. This infection is contagious and can spread to other people too. 90% of all active cases in adults are from latent TB.

    An active or latent TB infection can also become drug-resistant, suggesting some medicines don’t work against the infectious bacteria.
    Most cases of TB can be cured with antibiotics. But it takes time and discipline. You have to follow the guidelines and take the medications for the whole recommended period.

    Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis

    Signs of active TB disease include:

    • Cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
    • Pain in the Chest
    • Blood in Cough
    • Lethargic felling
    • Night sweats
    • Chills & Fever
    • Appetite Loss
    • Weight loss

    If you experience any of these symptoms, Get medical help right away.

    TB Causes

    TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria that spreads through the air, just like a common cold. You can get infected with Tuberculosis if you come into contact with someone who has it.

    Tuberculosis Risk Factors

    You are more likely to contract Tuberculosis if:

    • You come in contact with a friend, colleague, or family member who has active TB.
    • You live in conditions where you are much more exposed to contract TB
    • You work in a nursing home or hospital
    • You’re a health care provider for patients with high risks of TB
    • You are a smoker

    A healthy immune system may fend off TB bacteria. But in case of an active TB disease, you might not be able to fight off if you have:

    • HIV-AIDS
    • Diabetes
    • kidney disease
    • Neck or Head cancers
    • Chemotherapy
    • Poor nutrition and low body weight
    • Organ transplants medications
    • Medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease

    Tuberculosis Transmission

    A person with TB can release tiny droplets that contain the bacteria when coughing, screaming, laughing, and talking. If you breathe in these contagious germs, you might get infected.

    You won’t contract TB that easily if you are around the patient for an extended period or if the patient is your family member or friend
    then you’re most likely to catch it.

    TB bacteria don’t survive on surfaces. Also, you can’t get it from handshakes with the patient.

    Tuberculosis Tests and Diagnosis

    There are two standard tests for TB:

    Skin test

    Also called the Mantoux tuberculin skin test.
    The physician injects a tiny amount of fluid into your lower arm skin. After a period of 2 0r 3 days, if you have inflammation in your arm and if your results come positive, that means you probably have TB.

    The test may come as a false positive if you’ve taken a TB vaccine in the past, called bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG); then the test could say that you have Tuberculosis when in reality you don’t.

    The results can also be a false negative, saying that you don’t have TB when you have a new infection. You might want to get tested more than once if you doubt or if the symptoms are still there.

    Blood test:

    These tests, also called IGRAs(interferon-gamma release assays), during this test, TB proteins are mixed with a small amount of your blood, and response is measured.

    These tests don’t signify if you have a latent or active infection. If your blood or skin test is positive, then your doctor will examine which type of infection you have:

    • A CT scan or X-ray will show the changes in your lungs
    • AFB (Acid-fast bacillus) tests your sputum for TB bacteria (the mucus in your cough).

    Tuberculosis Treatment

    The treatment depends on your infection type.

    • If you have latent TB type, your doctor will give you medication to kill the bacteria and suppress the infection.
    • You might get rifapentine, isoniazid, or rifampin, either combined or in a single dose. You might have to take the prescriptions for up to 9 months.
    • You should visit your doctor right away if you see any signs of active TB.

      • A combination of medicines. ethambutol, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and rifampin is also given to treat active TB
      • You’ll have to take them for a 6 to 12 month period.
      • If you have developed a drug-resistant TB, your doctor might give you one or more combinations of medicines, which can cause side effects.
      • You might have to take these medicines for much longer than in the case of latent TB, up to 30 months.

      If you have an infection, then it’s necessary to take all of your medications for the recommended period, even when you feel better. If you quit halfway or do not complete the entire course, the bacteria can become resistant to the drugs.

      TB Complications

      TB infection can cause complications such as:

      • Damage in Joints and Lungs
      • Infection in your lymph nodes or damage in your bones, spinal cord, brain
      • Kidney or Liver problems
      • Swelling of the heart tissues

      Tuberculosis vaccine

      Though it doesn’t always protect against infection, it is reasonably practical; children where TB is common often receive the BCG vaccine.
      Doctors are recommended only for children living with an active TB infection with a very drug-resistant strain or can’t take antibiotics.
      Other vaccines are being developed and tested.

      TB Prevention

      To help stop TB:

      • If your infection is latent, take all of your medication to stop the infection from becoming contagious.
      • If you have active Tuberculosis, limit your contact with other people. It would be best if you covered your mouth when you sneeze, cough, or laugh, wear a surgical mask when you’re around other people during the first weeks of treatment.
      • If you’re traveling to a place where Tuberculosis is common, avoid staying for longer times in crowded places with sick people.
      Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors