Tuberculosis (TB) a serious, slow-developing bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Before addressing the issues encircling TB, it is mandatory to mention the day commemorating the scientific achievement in tracing the causes of it.
“World TB Day raises awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease. 24 March marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch detected the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. One-third of the world’s population is currently infected with TB. African Region, accounting for about 12% of the world population, recorded 23% of notified TB cases worldwide in 2010. TB continues to overburden many families in the African region despite the existence of medicines and other control measures to contain the disease in Africa.
Towards attainment of Millennium Development Goals and the regional targets, the African Region is launching TB training courses aimed at strengthening the Human resource base to fight TB in Africa.”
World Health Organisation (WHO)
From TBAlert article on understanding TB, I found a very good explanation of this infectious and fatal disease in a lucid manner: “The American Lung Association defines TB as an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs but can attack almost any part of the body. It is spread from person to person through the air. When people have TB in their lungs it is called pulmonary tuberculosis. It is transmitted when an infectious person coughs, laughs, sneezes, sings or even talks, as the germs that cause TB may be spread from their lungs into the air. If another person nearby breathes in the germs, there is a chance that they shall be infected. TB germs do not survive long in the air and if someone happens to be in the same room where a TB patient was, but now the room is empty, then there is very little chance of infection. When TB isn’t in the lungs it is called “extrapulmonary” TB. If a person has TB elsewhere in the body other than in the lungs or throat, they are not infectious, because the germs need to be breathed out. However, it is still very important that any form of TB is treated with TB medicines.”
The same article puts the mortality rate of TB as: “If left untreated, TB in the lungs or anywhere else in the body can kill. According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 million people died of tuberculosis in 2005. The disease is a bigger killer than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined and takes the lives of more women each year than all combined causes of maternal mortality. The good news is that tuberculosis is a disease that we know a lot about and can cure … if it is treated properly and the patient takes all of the TB medicines.” According to another article from Worldmapper, “In 2003 tuberculosis, often abbreviated to ‘TB’, affected 8.7 million people. Most of these people lived in Asia and Africa, a small proportion were in Europe and the Americas. The World Health Organisation reports that someone with open tuberculosis would infect 10 to 15 people a year. So when a certain number of people are infected it is very hard to stop it spreading further. Tuberculosis bacilli are spread through the air when someone sneezes or coughs. In the past 50 years drugs have been developed to treat tuberculosis. The disease has since developed strains that are resistant to those drugs.”
There are two types of TB. There is a difference being merely latently infected with TB and having active TB disease.
Latent TB Infection
Under this type, “TB germs can live in your body without making you ill. This is called latent TB infection, which is non-infectious to others. Indeed this is very common and in most cases it is nothing to worry about, as the patient probably won’t ever become sick. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three people of the world’s population already has latent TB infection. That simply means that they have breathed in the TB germ at some point in their lives, but the body’s natural defences make the germ “sleep” effectively, making it inactive. However, sometimes the TB germs “wake up” and break away from this trap set by this trap set by the body’s natural defences. When this happens the “actual” TB disease can develop. Some doctors may think it wise to give a patient who is found to have latent TB infection medicines to make sure the patient doesn’t become ill as a precautionary measure. It is very routine, especially for people who are HIV-positive.”
Active TB Infection
Someone with latent TB infection will not feel ill, have symptoms and won’t be infectious. “But if you develop active TB disease then you may feel weak and tired. You might start to lose weight. If you have active TB disease you may also lose your appetite. You might develop a fever, and possibly night sweats. When TB is in your lungs (pulmonary TB) you may get any combination of the symptoms mentioned above, but also accompanied by a cough. You may have chest pain and might be coughing up some blood or blood-stained phlegm (sputum). You may also feel short of breath. Symptoms vary, depending on what part of the body is affected. Left untreated, these symptoms could get worse and put you, and potentially your family, especially young children, in danger.”