Tuberculosis (TB) is the second leading cause of severe illness and mortality in Zimbabwe. According to the Global TB report 2014, Zimbabwe is placed among the top 22 high burden countries in the world.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread through the air when someone infected with TB coughs, sneezes, spits, laughs or talks, thus it is contagious. However it is not easy to catch. This disease affects all age groups but mostly young adults.
There are two kinds of TB infection which are latent and active. Latent TB is when the bacteria remains in the body whilst it is inactive. Hence it is not contiguous and symptoms will not be expressed. However there is a risk of it being activated if an individual is exposed to certain factors. These factors include contracting the HIV virus which suppresses the immune system and also tobacco smoking.
Active TB is when the bacteria is active in the body thus it can be transmitted to others. An individual with active TB will show the following symptoms:
· Coughing, sometimes with mucus or blood
· Loss of weight
· Loss of appetite
· Night sweats
It usually affects the lungs but sometimes affect other parts of the body and therefore symptoms will vary accordingly.
When faced with these symptoms, one is encouraged to visit the nearest health facility where diagnostic tests are done. A positive result will lead to immediate treatment through taking antibiotics. The good thing about TB is that it is curable . However the precise type and length of antibiotics treatment depends on overall health, potential resistance to drugs, a person's age and location of the infection( i.e. the lungs, brain, kidneys). The standard length of time for a course of TB antibiotics is about 6 months. Completing the course of the treatment fully is very important even if the TB symptoms have gone away. This is because the bacteria which would have survived the treatment could become resistant to the prescribed drug.
If left untreated, tuberculosis can result in complications including meningitis, spinal pain, joint damage, damage to liver or kidneys and ultimately death. However, it can also be partly prevented by vaccination in children. Therefore it is very important for the baby to be immunised at birth as a preventative measure. A few measures can be taken to prevent the spread of active TB by avoiding other people by not going to school or work , wearing a mask, covering the mouth and also ventilating rooms.
Enisia is a First year Medical student at MSU. She is a ZiMSA member.