World Tuberculosis Day 2017: Risk factors and prevention of the disease.


World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24 every year to help spread awareness about the disease, communicate prevention measures and precautions as well as to commemorate efforts undertaken against the disease.

The date was earmarked due to the discovery of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacterium due to which TB is caused, by German microbiologist Dr Robert Koch in 1882, when the disease had much of Europe and America under its grip. At the 100th anniversary of the discovery, in 1982, the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) suggested that the day be observed as World Tuberculosis Day.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious, airborne disease that mainly affects your lungs. Caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium, TB is one of the top ten causes of death worldwide.

Overall, about 5 to 10% of infected persons who do not receive treatment for latent TB infection will develop TB disease at some time in their lives. For persons whose immune systems are weak, especially those with HIV infection, the risk of developing TB disease is much higher than for persons with normal immune systems.

Generally, persons at high risk for developing TB disease fall into two categories:

  • Persons who have been recently infected with TB bacteria
  • Persons with medical conditions that weaken the immune system

Persons who have been Recently Infected with TB Bacteria

This includes:

  • Close contacts of a person with infectious TB disease
  • Persons who have immigrated from areas of the world with high rates of TB
  • Children less than 5 years of age who have a positive TB test
  • Groups with high rates of TB transmission, such as homeless persons, injection drug users, and persons with HIV infection
  • Persons who work or reside with people who are at high risk for TB in facilities or institutions such as hospitals, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and residential homes for those with HIV

Persons with Medical Conditions that Weaken the Immune System

Babies and young children often have weak immune systems. Other people can have weak immune systems, too, especially people with any of these conditions:

  • HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS)
  • Substance abuse
  • Silicosis
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Low body weight
  • Organ transplants
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Medical treatments such as corticosteroids or organ transplant
  • Specialized treatment for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease

Risk Factors for Tuberculosis

Risk factors for tuberculosis include anything that weakens a person’s immune system or puts someone in frequent, close contact with people who have active TB.

In the United States, some of the main risk factors for tuberculosis include:

  • Poverty
  • HIV infection
  • Homelessness
  • Being in jail or prison
  • Substance abuse
  • Having a weakened immune system for reasons other than HIV, such as chronic steroid use, patients on dialysis, and those who have had organ transplants and take drugs to prevent rejection

Tuberculosis Prevention

To prevent the transmission of tuberculosis in healthcare settings, the CDC has issued guidelines that require most employees to be screened for tuberculosis upon being hired and subsequently on a regular, often annual, basis.

Some residential institutions, such as nursing homes, also screen all new residents for tuberculosis.

Screening for active TB is best accomplished by a chest x-ray.

Some other steps toward preventing the spread of TB include:

  • Improving the ventilation in indoor spaces so there are fewer bacteria in the air
  • Using germicidal ultraviolet lamps to kill airborne bacteria in buildings where people at high risk of tuberculosis live or congregate
  • Treating latent infection before it becomes active
  • Using directly observed therapy (DOT) in people with diagnosed tuberculosis (latent or active) to raise the likelihood of the disease being cured

Tuberculosis Vaccine

A vaccine for tuberculosis called bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, is used in parts of the world with high rates of the infection to prevent serious complications such as meningitis.

BCG is rarely used in the United States, however, because some studies have shown that BCG is not very effective in preventing TB cases, and because treatment of latent TB infection with isoniazid is a more effective strategy to prevent tuberculosis.

Here are 10 things you need to know about the disease:

1. HIV patients are at a very high risk of TB.

According to experts, the probability of the disease is higher in HIV patients, as their immune system is weaker than others. Most HIV deaths occur due to TB.

2. It is an air-pollution borne disease.

City pollution is one of the major causes of tuberculosis. Stray dust on roads as well as fine dirt particles from construction sites can enter your lungs and aggravate chances of tuberculosis.

3. TB spreads by air.

Tuberculosis can spread by being in the infectious air as the disease is an infectious one whose bacteria travel through air droplets, by way of coughing or sneezing by an infected person. Therefore, a person who is infected should always avoid crowded, closes spaces and shift to an open environment immediately.

4. You might have TB and not know it.

According to statistics, about 2.3 billion people in the world have TB, but many may never know that they have it. Due to a condition called latent tuberculosis, the person infected might never experience severe symptoms or be hazardous to others, but the germs will simply stay in the body.

5. But fret not, you can fight it.

However, in only 5-10 per cent of people does the TB bacteria become industrious. These people can spread the disease to other people as the bacteria is active.

6. TB is mostly found in under-developed nations.

Mostly, TB is found in underdeveloped countries, especially in the Africa, Asia, Latin America, or Russia regions. Close to 1.5 million people die from the disease every year. TB is found to be very common in shelters for homeless people, prisons, hospitals and nursing homes, immigration settlements, etc.

7. TB can affect more than just your lungs.

Usually, TB attacks the lungs but other organs such as the brain or the kidneys can fall prey to the disease too.

8. Coughing, cold sweats, can be vital symptoms.

Symptoms include coughing that lasts for more than two or three week, at times with blood, chest pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, weakness, fever at night, sweating in cool weather, shortness of breath, whistle-like sound while breathing, etc.

9. I have TB, what do I do now?

In case you have tuberculosis, you should stop tobacco and alcohol intake immediately, lessen caffeine consumption, decrease eating refined food items such as white rice, sugar, white bread, etc., avoid red meat or other cholesterol inducing items. You should also visit a doctor immediately.

10. What to eat, what to stay away from.

What you should eat, however, are poultry products, fish, wheat-based products, dark-green vegetables such as kale, spinach, beans, broccoli and the like, vegetables naturally occurring in bright colours, such as carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes and fruits such as blueberries, cherries, etc., as these are rich in anti-oxidants.


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