When you hear the words Tuberculosis, you might be fooled into thinking about an illness that happened the 1800’s where people were shunned and doomed to live a life of solitude and most likely, die. But TB is here and now, but the news is not doom and gloom anymore.
What is Tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis or TB for short is a disease caused by a bacterium that is transmitted by tiny droplets when someone who has TB coughs, talks, laughs, sings or even just exhales. (Is this starting to sound familiar?)
TB typically manifests in the lungs but can be found in any part of the body, including the spine, pelvis, or brain. Symptoms include a persistent cough, blood when you cough, fever, night sweats, loss of appetite and unexplained loss of weight.
This all sounds a bit close to home in 2021, right? As we March (pun intended) into the second year of the global pandemic that is Covid-19, these symptoms and methods of transmission have been drilled into our brains. The good news is, so are most of the treatments.
How is TB different from Covid-19?
TB and Covid-19 are infectious diseases that attack primarily the lungs, they have similarities and differences.
The best thing they have in common is that in most cases, both are perfectly treatable, and preventable.
If I have TB, can I ever be fully cured?
TB is curable when treatment is taken the right way, the right number of days and by the right people. Treatment for TB can be as short as three months with new drugs, to six months but in other cases it can be up to a year. Just the past years, newer drugs to make TB treatment easier and shorter have been introduced and they hold promises to change people’s lives soon. Until then, when you have TB you need to take all the treatment at your local clinic until the doctor says it has cleared off.
What if I or someone I care about is diagnosed with TB?
TB is totally preventable. Washing your hands, opening the windows, and taking TB Preventive Therapy also known as TPT available for free at your local clinic are essential ways to keep TB away. If someone close to you have just gotten TB, you need to check for signs and report to your nearest clinic for a full assessment.
Here are a few things to remember as we March on World TB Day.
- If diagnosed with TB, be sure to take all medications without fail until such a time as your doctor tells you to stop. Speaking of your doctor, keep all appointments. Do not skip them because you “feel fine”.
- Always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Since masks are currently mandatory in South Africa, this shouldn’t be a problem. As with Covid-19 care, it is important to keep your mask on, to cover both the mouth and the nose.
- Avoid going out in public for social gatherings until your doctor declares you non-contagious. It is also important to not have guests to visit as surfaces in your home may be contaminated.
- Stay home from work, school or public places, even if you are feeling well unless your doctor declares you non-contagious.
Craig Stadler is a contributing writer for the Anova Health Institute, and these are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova and its affiliates.