By: Moses Adeosun
Tuberculosis popular known as TB is caused by a type of bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is airborne; that is, it spreads when a person with active TB disease in their lungs coughs or sneezes and someone else inhales the expelled droplets. It is very important to talk about this disease in crowded places like the University, where transmission is relatively easy and fast, due to the volume of people.
World TB Day is observed annually on March 24 to raise awareness about TB and the efforts to end it. Also, World TB day marks the day – in 1882 – when the bacterium causing TB was discovered. These sorts of awareness programs are important because not only do they help people identify the disease, but they help prevent it and also inform people about best practices for treatment and recovery. For instance, the World Health Organization records that global efforts to end Tuberculosis have saved 74 million lives since 2000
Also according to WHO, 10.6 million people fell ill and 1.6 million people died of TB in 2021 alone. The Johns Hopkins medical journal also identifies TB as a disease with 3 stages which with possibly no signs in the early stages. As a result of this, awareness, diagnosis as well as prevention are therefore very important.
What Should You Know About Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, like death, does not regard status, age, health, and social class; anyone can get it (literally). The disease has three major stages. There is the exposure stage that marks contact with an infected person. After contact, there are no symptoms or diagnosable signs. The exposed person would have a negative skin test, a normal chest X-ray, and perfectly healthy respiration if examined. Therefore, rather than dismiss the risks associated with exposure and contact, especially with a visibly infected person, proactive prevention is necessary. After exposure, victims are advised to visit a health professional for tests and treatment plans that prevent the infection from moving up through the next stages.
There is also the Latent TB infection. This happens when a person has TB bacteria in his or her body but does not have symptoms of the disease. The infected person’s immune system walls off the TB organisms, and the TB remains inactive throughout life in most people who are infected. In people with relatively weaker immune systems, the latent period may be shorter. Diseases like HIV or sickle cell anemia predispose people to a faster invasion of Tuberculosis disease. This person would have a positive skin test, but a normal chest X-ray. The final stage of the disease is TB disease itself. At this stage, the victim has signs and symptoms of infection. For instance, victims usually have a positive skin test diagnosis; the chest X-ray diagnosis for TB also comes positive.
General symptoms of Tuberculosis include a Cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer, Chest pain, Fatigue, Loss of appetite, and Unintended weight loss. In some cases, the victims may cough blood or thick sputum consistently. Victims also experience Fever signs like Chills and night sweats. In children, victims experience poor growth. Despite the intensity of the disease, it is treatable with antibiotics. Medical practitioners often recommend that patients complete the full course of treatment to seal the disease away. Failure to do this may cause relapse, and even worse, death.
However, Tuberculosis prevention is surprisingly not very tedious. Aside from avoiding exposure, TB is preventable with proper hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding close contact with people who have TB. Also, in the prevention of Tuberculosis, anything that can affect the immune system should be prevented.
The University, student leaders, and voluntary communities may innovate toward systemic prevention of tuberculosis. For instance, structures that encourage and reinforce the need for hygiene – like during the peak of COVID-19 infection – could be put in place. The University could also serve as a lighthouse, by carrying TB awareness to people with limited access to information and treatment. All in all, with joint effort, Tuberculosis can be ended in our immediate communities and the country in general.