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» »Unlabelled » TB: What exactly is it

Enisia Chuma, ZiMSA

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

·         Chills

·         Fatigue

·         Fever

·         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.







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