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Understanding Tuberculosis

What Is Tuberculosis?

This is an infection of the body caused by a slow-growing bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, responsible for about 4,500 deaths daily.

How Is Tuberculosis Transmitted?

Spread is via droplets in the air when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes. A single cough can generate about 3000 infectious droplets which linger in the air for a while. When inhaled by an uninfected person who has not been vaccinated, the bacteria nestles in the body. Tuberculosis may also be spread via the consumption of unpasteurised milk.

Ideally, the body’s defences contain the spread and growth of Tuberculosis. In individuals with a weakened immune system, this defence process is subpar and the bacterium continues to grow in the body, forming colonies in and far away from the lungs.

Tuberculosis. Photo: Verywellhealth

Who Gets Tuberculosis?

It is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population is currently infected with tuberculosis. Infection, however, does not mean disease. Tuberculosis is commonest in Asia but Africa had the highest number of tuberculosis-related deaths in the world in 2017.

Tuberculosis is commonest in people aged 19 – 40, men and children under five. A growing number of people with tuberculosis are HIV+ patients. HIV, as well as Poverty, overcrowding, failure of health systems, malnutrition, smoking and homelessness, are factors that drive tuberculosis. In Nigeria, about 400,000 people get tuberculosis each year.

What Are The Symptoms Of Tuberculosis?

Typically, tuberculosis can affect almost every part of the body. Infection of the skin, bones, genitals, and brain is possible. However, tuberculous infection of the lungs is commonest. It is in fact called primary tuberculosis because it is often the first part affected.
Symptoms seen in people with primary tuberculosis include the following:
1. Persistent Cough, which may produce thick, yellow or brown sputum.
2. Night Sweats
3. Weight loss
4. Weakness
5. Neck swelling
6. Chest Pain
7. Breathlessness
8. Fever
Other symptoms are specific to the parts of the body affected.

How Is Tuberculosis Diagnosed?

Diagnosis follows consultation. During the process of interview and examination, your doctor will make a diagnosis of tuberculosis based on your symptoms and other findings. A skin sensitivity test (called tuberculin sensitivity test), sputum examination in a laboratory, and an X-ray may be ordered to confirm a diagnosis of tuberculosis.

How Is Treatment For Tuberculosis Carried Out?

Treatment is instituted via medications which are taken for 6 months. Health workers often directly ensure that individuals diagnosed with tuberculosis take their medicine daily via a method called directly observed therapy.

How Can One Prevent Tuberculosis?

While Tuberculosis is a notorious killer of both adults and children, it is not only treatable but also preventable. Today, every child in Nigeria is vaccinated with the first part of a three-dose vaccination against tuberculosis immediately after birth and at most, within a week.
Adults in contact with individuals who are diagnosed with tuberculosis should wear a face mask when in close contact with them.

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