Although many people are infected with the tuberculosis bacteria, not all these individuals will become ill. In the late 1980s, there was a dramatic increase in the number of people diagnosed with tuberculosis. This was primarily due to the rapid emergence of the aids virus, which suppresses the immune system, and allows the TB bacteria to flourish. This is not to say that aids in any way causes TB. Any illness or disease that suppresses the body’s immune system, increases the likelihood that other illnesses and diseases will gain a foothold. The elderly, the very young, smokers, and those suffering from diseases such as diabetes and cancer, may also find it difficult to fight off the TB bacteria.
Many people carry the TB bacteria within their bodies, but the body’s normal healthy immune system holds it in check. This is considered to be ‘inactive’ TB. If, for any reason, the immune system is to weak or undeveloped to handle the bacteria, the disease becomes ‘active’ TB. Although we think of TB as a lung disease, that is merely the way it starts. Untreated TB can spread to literally all the organs in the body, causing wasting and irreparable damage.
The initial symptoms of TB, in the lungs, include:
—-a continuous cough, not related to the common cold,
—-pain in the chest, even when merely breathing,
—-and blood in the sputum.
When any of these symptoms appear, it is time to see a doctor.
Other symptoms of TB include:
—-chills and fever,
—-and loss of appetite.
Most cases of TB are relatively easy to treat. Treatment consists of several prescription drugs, taken for six months or more. Even if a patient begins to feel much better, it is essential that treatment continues as long as indicated. If treatment is interrupted or discontinued too early, the disease will flare up again, and possibly become drug resistant. In the event that a patient feels any side-affects when undergoing treatment, it is important that they report this to their physician immediately.
Because it is vital that treatments for TB continue until the patient has been completely cured, medications are often administered by health professionals. This way, on-going health can be monitored, and no doses will be overlooked.
In 2009, over one million people, world-wide, died from TB. Five hundred of these deaths were in the United States.
Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease. It is spread from one individual to another through drops expelled into the air by coughing or sneezing. Only early diagnosis and immediate treatment can eradicate this disease.
There are several things that you can do to avoid contracting TB, and also to prevent its spread.
1. Do all you can to keep healthy and strong. This includes eating a healthy diet, rich in lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits, getting regular exercise, and adequate rest. Drink only in moderation and do not smoke.
2. Have regular medical check-ups, and visit your physician if you have any concerning symptoms.
3. Avoid those with active coughs. If you have a cough, wear a surgical mask, until your cough has been completely cured.
4. If you have an active case of TB, protect others by wearing a surgical mask, and continuing treatment until you physician pronounces your TB cured.
5. If at all possible, avoid traveling in areas known to have active cases of TB.
6. If you are in contact with infants, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system, consider being tested for TB on a regular basis. The test is reasonably priced, and painless.
7. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
In the United States, there is a TB vaccine, which, in rare circumstances, is given to children. It is not considered to be significantly effective against the lung infection.