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Tuberculosis, or TB, is primarily an
airborne disease caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The
bacteria are spread through the air and usually infect the lungs, but can also
infect other parts of the body as well.
TB can be spread when a person with
active pulmonary TB disease coughs, sneezes, talks, sings or laughs. Only
people with an active pulmonary infection are contagious. Most people who
breathe in TB bacteria are able to fight the bacteria and stop it from growing.
The bacterium becomes inactive in these individuals, and is referred to as a
latent TB infection.
bacteria are inactive, they still remain alive in the body, and can become
active later. Some people can have a latent TB infection for a lifetime,
without it ever becoming active and developing into TB disease. However, TB can
become active if the immune system becomes weakened and cannot stop them from
growing. This is when the latent TB infection becomes a TB disease.
Those people with inactive TB do not
exhibit symptoms; however, they may have a positive skin reaction test. The
tuberculin skin test has low specificity but three are newer tests that are
more specific for M. tuberculosis. The CDC has recently established guidelines
for these new blood tests.
Those with TB disease, however, can
exhibit any of the following symptoms:
Bad cough (lasting longer than 2 weeks)
Pain in the chest
Coughing up blood or sputum
Fatigue or weakness
Loss of appetite
High risk groups to contact TB
You are a resident or employee in group settings where
the risk is high (i.e. correctional facilities, hospices, skilled nursing
facilities and other health care facilities)
You work in a mycobacteriology laboratory
You have been in contact with a person known or
suspected to have TB disease
Your body,s resistance to illness is low, due to aging,
malnutrition, HIV or other conditions that weaken the immune system
You think you might already have TB disease and are
experiencing symptoms that are characteristic of TB disease
You are from a country or lived in a country where TB
disease is prevalent, such as Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, the
Caribbean, and most countries in Latin America
You live or have been present in a facility where TB is
common, such as in a crowded shelter, prison, and/or long-term care
You have used injected illicit drugs.
Can TB be cured?
The good news is, yes, TB can be cured even in people
with HIV infection. However, you must take all of the medication as your
doctor instructs you to do, or else not all of the bacteria will be
Can TB be prevented?
Yes. You usually have to be in contact with someone
with active TB for a long time before becoming infected. The most
important measure to prevent the transmission of TB in the hospital is to
have proper ventilation and/or proper personal protective equipment
Symptoms specific to organs
Image courtesy: Infectious diseases
Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB)
A TB infection of the lungs is known as pulmonary
A persistent cough of more than two weeks that brings
up phlegm, which may be bloody
Breathlessness, which is usually mild to begin with and
gradually gets worse
Lack of appetite and weight loss
A high temperature of 38 C (100.4) or above
Extreme tiredness or fatigue
Unexplained pain for more than three weeks
When to get medical help?
You should see your GP if you have a cough that lasts
for more than two weeks or if you cough up blood.
Extra-pulmonary tuberculosis (TB)
In some cases, TB can occur outside the lungs, which is
known as extra pulmonary TB.
Extra pulmonary TB is more common in people with a
weakened immune system, particularly people with an HIV infection. You are
also more likely to develop extra pulmonary TB if you have previously been
infected with TB but haven't had any symptoms (a latent TB infection).
A TB infection can affect the:
Lymph nodes (lymph node TB)
Bones and joints (skeletal TB)
The digestive system (gastrointestinal TB)
The bladder and reproductive system (genitourinary TB)
The nervous system (central nervous system TB)
These types of extra pulmonary TB can
cause additional symptoms, which are described below.
Lymph node TB
Lymph nodes are small glands that are part of the
immune system. They remove unwanted bacteria and particles from the
Persistent, painless swelling of the lymph nodes, which
usually affects nodes in the neck, but swelling can occur in nodes
throughout your body
The swollen nodes can release fluid through the skin
Curving of the affected bone or joint
Loss of movement or feeling in the affected bone or
Weakness of the joint
Gastro intestinal TB
A burning sensation when you urinate
Blood in your urine
A frequent urge to pass urine during the night
Central nervous system TB
Your central nervous system consists of your brain and
Changes in your mental state, such as confusion
If you are a TB patient, it is
important to take some basic precautions to stop TB spreading to your family
and friends. These precautions are:
Stay away from work, school or college until your TB
treatment team advises you it is safe to return
Always cover your mouth when coughing, sneezing or
Carefully dispose of any used tissues in a sealed
Open windows when possible to ensure a good supply of
Do not sleep in the same room as other people because
you could cough or sneeze in your sleep without realizing it
FOR HIGH RISK GROUPS
Hand sanitization is a must
Use of all defensive equipment while handling
mycobacterium cultures or affected specimen for paramedical staff
Seek doctor's advice if you suffer complaints like
cough with bloody sputum, fever etc.
Regular medical check-ups if there is a TB patient in
Healthy recipe ideas for meals low in fat, saturated
fat, sugar and salt but high in taste indulges one into good nutrition.
The eat well plate
Use the eat well plate to get the balance of your diet
right. It shows you how much to eat from each food group.
One 5 A DAY portion of fruit or
vegetables is about 80g or around one handful.
Nutrition essentials include-
Fruit and veg
Milk and dairy
Pulses and beans
Vitamins and minerals.
Sample Diet Plan
TB patients need to have food rich
in energy but it has to be devoid of high amounts of fats, sodium, sugar and
junk food. Treatment induced effect on liver demands you to consume easily