Most of Pakistani Nation is well aware of the term “Tuberculosis” and that it can have serious consequences if not treated in time. This is because the father of our nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was taken ill with TB and met his untimely death. This was just a year after the country came into existence. However, not just Pakistan, but one third of the world’s population is infected with these deadly bacteria. Only those with a weak immune system are at risk of acquiring TB. However, there are many other factors and risks that need to be looked into if this disease is to be avoided completely. Here are 10 facts about tuberculosis that we should all know about.
TB is an Infectious Disease
TB is contagious since it spreads to others through the air. This happens when someone with an active TB infection sneezes, coughs or even speaks. The germs that are released can stay for hours in the surrounding air. However, it is not likely to spread through touching the person or sharing his/her food since it is only the air that becomes contaminated.
Majority of the TB Cases Occur in Asian Countries
According to World Health Organization (WHO), about 10.4 million new cases of TB occurred in 2015 alone. Most of these cases seem to have taken place in Asian countries, with India coming out on the top. The countries that followed were Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa. These 6 countries made up an astonishing 60% of the total case count of TB in that year, resulting in a total of 1.8 million deaths.
Blood Tests or TB Symptoms Indicate if a Person is Infected
The symptoms of TB are usually strongly felt by those who are infected. These symptoms may include coughing up blood, labored breathing, sweating, chest pain, rapid weight loss or loss of appetite and extreme fatigue. In such cases, it is best to get a skin or blood test to be completely sure.
TB affects Those with Weak Immune Systems
Out of the millions that catch the infection, not everyone has TB. People with a weak immune system are most likely to catch the diseases. The highest risk factor is for those infected with HIV, which is the leading cause of death. Apart from HIV, diabetes is also a major culprit for the body catching TB.
Lungs May Not Be the Only Target for TB
The disease is known to generally affect the lungs resulting in excessive coughing as a major symptom. However, the infection can also spread to other parts of the body such as the nervous system, lymphatic system, bones and joints. In simple terms, the reason for this is when the bacteria from the damaged tissue enters the blood stream. The spreading of TB makes it more severe, and is usually found in individuals with HIV, or in young children.
The Most Effective Method to Treat TB is DOTS
Since the mid-1990s, WHO has been working on the treatment for TB and has managed to save almost 6.8 million lives. The credit goes to a treatment method called Direct Observed Therapy, or DOTS. Hereby, trained medical staff members are appointed to ensure that victims of TB complete a set of antibiotic courses without missing their required doses. This has proven to be one of the best forms of treatment so far.
Treating TB can Prevent it from Spreading
Once TB is diagnosed, one of the best forms of fighting the bacteria is by using antibiotics. The TB causing mycobacteria are extremely resistant, which is why a number of antibiotics have been developed over the years to fight their effects. These include streptomycin and rifampin, which have been highly successful so far.
BCG Vaccines Help Prevent TB from Developing
The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, or BCG vaccine, is still given to children at an early age. Once a child is immunized with this vaccine, the chances of developing the infection fall by 20% and by 60% of developing TB itself in the event that the infection is caught. Therefore, it has a high success rate of preventing TB, which is why it has become mandatory to get these vaccinations in many parts of the world.
Tuberculosis Has Many Different Names
TB goes by several other names, the most popular of which was “consumption”. It was called consumption due to its literal nature of consuming the victim from the inside, causing a major weight and appetite loss. However, it has been known by many other names throughout history according to the cultures it was most prominent in. Some include Latin consumptione, Ancient Greek phthisis, Indian yaksma, and the English scrofula, king’s curse, and the white plague among many others.
TB Has Often Been Romanticized in Pop Culture
Due to its symptoms of making one pale and thin, TB has played a huge role in pop culture. It has been romanticized as a spiritual journey that purifies the victim before they meet their death. For this reason, women in the early 19th century would often mimic the physical signs of TB. They did this by whitening their skin and eating less. As an addition, famous English poet, John Keats, died from TB as well. Even today, many Hollywood films and plays still romanticize TB. These include roles of Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables or Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.