More than 2 million people die from TB disease every year. The main people at risk are children, elderly people and people with HIV. TB is one of the biggest killer of women of reproductive age, which means you, your mother, sister, daughter, friends are at risk. It is also the biggest killer of people with HIV/AIDS. Knowing how to spot the symptoms of TB and how to reduce the spread of it can save lives.
When cases of TB are treated they can be normally be cured, which means that the millions of deaths each year from TB are preventable. It is extremely important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have TB.
SYMPTOMS OF TB
The most obvious symptom of TB is a persistent heavy cough for more than three weeks. Sometimes coughing can bring up drops of blood too.
- Other symptoms can include;
- Weight loss,
- High temperature
- Night sweats
- Fatigue/ tiredness
- Reduced appetite.
HOW IS TB SPREAD?
TB is spread when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs and releases droplets into the air that contain the bacteria that cause TB. These are breathed in by non-infected people nearby.
HOW CAN I REDUCE THE SPREADING OF TB?
It is extremely important to cover your mouth and nose when coughing/sneezing with a tissue. If a person suspects they have TB, it is best if the tissue is then burnt or thrown away in a plastic bag. If you don’t have a tissue, coughing into your elbow is the next best option. It is important not to cough/sneeze into your hands.
In a household where a person has TB there are steps that should be taken to reduce the chance other people living in the house will be infected:
- Houses should be well ventilated
- People in the house should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- The person with TB should spend as much time outdoors
- The person with TB should sleep alone and in a separate well-ventilated room if possible
- Children under five should spend as little time as possible in the same living spaces as someone with TB
- People with TB should spend as little time as possible in crowded places such as schools, workplaces and on public transport
- People with HIV should not, if possible, provide care to TB infectious people. HIV positive people are most at risk of developing TB
The main way to reduce the spread of TB is to treat people who have the disease quickly so that they infect fewer other people. Infected people are normally only contagious up to three weeks after they start taking drugs to treat the disease.
A combination of drugs is taken for at least six months. It is essential to take the drugs for the length of time the doctor says, even after your symptoms have gone. This is to make sure all bacteria in your body are killed, otherwise some may remain that can cause infection again at a later point. People not taking the drugs for the required length of time is one of the main reasons why TB infection is still so common in Africa. There is also a vaccine against TB which can be given to children to prevent them getting the disease. Most deaths from TB are preventable! If you suspect you have TB seek medical treatment immediately.