“We are facing a silent spread of the disease, because if I infect you, you only have a 5-10% of chance of becoming sick,” says World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific adviser for TB Dr Catharina van Weezenbeek.
“If you do get sick, it could be at any point in your life.”
This is part of the reason why only 1.3 million out of the 1.9 million TB cases in the WHO Western Pacific region were diagnosed.
And the concern is that these undetected cases could spread the disease even further.
For this reason, it is important to search for these infected, but asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms) patients actively, instead of waiting for them to turn up, says Dr van Weezenbeek.
While people with compromised immune systems (eg the elderly, people with HIV or chronic diseases) may fall sick quickly, those who have normal immune systems may have latent TB.
This is a condition where the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria stays dormant in the host body until the body’s immune system becomes weak, and the bacteria have a chance to become active and multiply.
Therefore, it is important to prevent the transmission of tuberculosis by creating awareness among the community.
Here are a few basic facts about tuberculosis offered by the United States Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Malaysian Health Ministry.
1. How does TB spread?
TB is spread through the air from one person to another.
The TB bacteria enter the air when a person with active TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings.
People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
It is not spread by:
·shaking someone’s hand.
·sharing food or drink.
·touching bed linens or toilet seats.
2. How do I know if I have TB?
The signs and symptoms of TB only appear if you have active TB.
Common signs and symptoms include:
·unexplained weight loss
·excessive sweating at night
·loss of appetite.
As tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs, you can also have a bad cough that lasts three or more weeks, cough up blood or have pain in the chest when you breathe or cough.
3. How is TB diagnosed?
There are two kinds of tests that can be used to help detect TB infection: the TB skin test and TB blood tests.
A positive TB skin test or blood test only tells that a person has been infected with the TB bacteria; it does not tell whether the person has a latent TB infection or has progressed to active TB.
Other tests, such as a chest X-ray and an examination of a sample of the patient’s sputum, are needed to see if the person has the disease.
4. Does a person with a latent infection need treatment?
Although a person with a latent infection does not show symptoms of TB and cannot pass the bacteria to another person, he or she needs treatment to prevent the disease from becoming active.
5. How do I prevent TB?
The BCG vaccine — a vaccine for TB — is included in the Malaysian National Immunisation Schedule and is given to all infants at birth. However, this vaccine does not always protect people from getting TB.
Other methods of prevention include:
·Consulting a doctor if you have had a chronic cough for two weeks.
·Going for a check-up if you think you have been exposed to a person who has TB.
·Ensuring that your home or office receives enough direct sunlight (as it will kill the bacteria in the air) and is well ventilated.
For more information : http://www.maptb.org.my/
Source : the Star