TB awareness as the world celebrates World TB Day

According to WHO, TB remains the leading cause of death, despite being both preventable and treatable. Picture: File

According to WHO, TB remains the leading cause of death, despite being both preventable and treatable. Picture: File

Published Mar 22, 2023


Durban — South Africa is said to be one of the 30 countries with high tuberculosis incidents that are said to have contributed, apparently in 2020, to 86% of the estimated incident cases worldwide.

Every year, World TB Day is observed on March 24, and Affinity Health raises awareness of the global burden of TB and the efforts to eliminate the disease.

Tuberculosis, commonly called TB, is a highly infectious disease caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis.

TB primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other body parts, including the brain, spine, and kidneys.

The high burden of TB in SA is due to a combination of factors, including a high prevalence of HIV, poor living conditions, and limited access to healthcare services, said Affinity Health CEO Murray Hewlett.

While progress has been made in recent years, much work still needs to be done to eliminate TB in SA and improve the health outcomes of those affected by the disease.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. When infected people cough, sneeze, or talk, they release tiny droplets containing the bacteria into the air. These droplets can be inhaled by others, leading to infection.

TB can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, although this is less common.

Symptoms of TB vary depending on the part of the body that is affected. In most cases, TB primarily affects the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Other symptoms may include fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

TB can also affect other body parts, leading to symptoms such as back pain, joint pain, and kidney problems.

Diagnosis of TB typically involves a series of tests, including a physical examination, chest X-ray, and a sputum test.

Additional tests, such as a CT scan or a biopsy, may be required in some cases.

Getting a proper diagnosis and treatment for TB as soon as possible is vital to prevent the spread of the disease and improve the chances of a full recovery.

The treatment of TB involves a course of antibiotics, which can last for several months. It is essential to complete the entire duration of treatment as prescribed, even if you start to feel better.

Failure to complete the whole course of antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant TB, which is more challenging to treat, and highly transferable.

Preventing the spread of TB requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes identifying and treating people with active TB, providing preventative treatment to people at high risk of developing TB, and improving living conditions to reduce the risk of TB transmission.

Other preventative measures include promoting good hygiene practices, such as covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and providing access to vaccination against TB, such as the BCG vaccine.

WHO has stated that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on TB prevention and treatment efforts.

The disruption to healthcare services, including TB testing and treatment, has led to a decline in diagnosing and treating TB cases, which could increase TB-related deaths in the coming years.

In addition, people with TB are at higher risk of developing severe Covid-19, highlighting the need to protect vulnerable populations from both diseases.

According to WHO’s most recent statistics per country, 304 000 people contracted TB, but only 174 000 were diagnosed with the disease representing a mere 57 %. This is well short of the target of 95%, representing a gap of 144 000 people.

Of those initiated into treatment, only 78% completed their treatment. Sadly, over 55 000 people are estimated to have died from TB.

Despite being both preventable and treatable, TB remains the leading cause of death.

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