TUBERCULOSIS – BEATING A KILLER


It is time to step up the fight against a scourge which claims many lives even though it can be cured. World Tuberculosis Day is on 24 March – here is what you should know about the disease.


One of the great moments in modern medicine came when Dr Robert Koch announced in Berlin that he had discovered the bacterium causing tuberculosis. At the time, the disease was rampant in Europe and North and South America, causing one in seven deaths. Experts believed it was inherited but Dr Koch's discovery paved the way for proper diagnosis and eventually a cure.

The big day was 24 March 1882. That’s how long we have known what causes TB – and still we haven’t eradicated the disease.

No wonder the World Health Organisation chose “It's Time” as the slogan for this year's World TB Day. They are urging world leaders and organisations to pick up the pace with action like awareness campaigns, access to medication and financing research.

WHAT IS TB?
TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease. Every day, nearly 4 500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30 000 people fall ill.

Well over 80 percent of cases occur in the 30 high-burden countries. Eight of those account for two-thirds of all cases: India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.



When someone with TB in their lungs coughs or sneezes, they send the bacteria (mycobacterium tuberculosis) into the air. If you inhale them, you might get ill or your body might kill them off. The third possible outcome is that the bacteria stay in your body and remain inactive.

This is called latent TB. About a quarter of all people have it. They have no symptoms and aren't sick or infectious but the chance is about one in ten that they'll get TB later on.

So how do you know if you carry the bacteria? All it takes is a simple blood or skin test. The good news is latent TB can be treated with one or two medicines over three to six months.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Active TB has symptoms such as persistent coughing, fever, night sweats and weight or appetite loss. These can be mild for months, so many people don’t have it checked out soon enough. Not only are they not being treated, they can infect up to 15 others per year.

Beating TB is as simple as being diagnosed and then taking four or more antimicrobial drugs for six months. A big problem is patients not finishing the course because they feel better. The bacteria remains in the body if not properly treated and can cause drug-resistant TB which is much harder to treat.



WHO DOES TB AFFECT?
TB can affect anybody, rich or poor. Television personality and former Miss SA Gerry Elsdon was diagnosed with TB of the uterus many years ago. She is cured, but is still a global TB ambassador. South Africa's favourite former Archbishop Desmond Tutu rose was diagnosed with TB at the age of 14. A TB research centre at the University of Stellenbosch is named after him.

COPING WITH TB
Mental health can either help with recovery from TB or hinder it, according to Santa. Patients can be isolated if infectious, feel weak, be overwhelmed by drug treatments and become depressed because they can’t enjoy life as before. That is where encouragement from family and friends is valuable, while online groups such as dailystrength can provide information and support.

Exercise and fitness, sunshine and time outdoors are important. UV exposure produces Vitamin D, boosting the immune system in its fight against the disease. A healthy diet with fruit juices(especially orange) and leafy green vegetables help by reducing infectious mucus and fighting bacteria. Vitamins and minerals have been shown to help limit the effects of TB and prevent complications and recurrence.

Knowing your status, adopting a healthy lifestyle and supporting people with the disease are all ways we can help contain tuberculosis. It’s 138 years after Dr Koch’s discovery – and time for a world without TB.

ASK AN EXPERT
Jet Club members have free access to Jet Club’s Medical Carelines.

CALL THE CARELINE

  • Get advice in an emergency.
  • Ask about symptoms and find out which kind of professional help will be best.
  • Find out about any kind of healthcare, including home remedies. Follow-up calls will be arranged if needed.
  • Get a simple explanation of medical terms, test results and information about medication
  • Receive counselling for chronic conditions to minimise their impact on your daily life.

HOW TO USE IT

  • Dial *130*3272*01# and we’ll call you back. Or call one of these numbers: 
  • South Africa & Namibia 0800 00 45 45
  • Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland +27 11 991 8258
TUBERCULOSIS – BEATING A KILLER TUBERCULOSIS – BEATING A KILLER Reviewed by Jet Club on March 22, 2019 Rating: 5

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