Know the ABC of TB

2018-05-09 06:00

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a big threat to the health of South Africans.

The latest findings on the TB scourge was again highlighted on World Tuberculosis Day on 24 March.

Following the findings, Dr Vuyo Gqola, chief healthcare officer of the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS), has urged South Africans to take a proactive approach to their health and to illnesses such as TB.

“TB is a potentially dangerous disease that can be deadly,” he said.

“The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Tuber­culosis Report for 2017 indicates that TB remained the top infectious disease in the world during 2016. It was also the leading cause of death among individuals with HIV.”

According to Statistics South Africa TB resulted in the deaths of more than 33 000 people during 2015.

“By adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking precautions against catching and spreading TB, South Africans can go a long way to protect themselves against this infectious disease.

“We should all be aware of the signs and symptoms of TB and should visit a healthcare provider if we have reason to believe that we may have contracted this illness.

“TB can be successfully treated and cured with antibiotics. However, the longer TB, which is a type of bacterial infection, is left untreated the more damage it can cause to the body. It is important to commence treatment as soon as possible.

“While TB can impact different parts of the body, it most commonly attacks and damages the lungs.”

TB spreads from person to person through coughs, sneezes and spitting.

People nearby may also inhale the TB bacteria and become infected.

Most people with TB will stop spreading the illness two weeks after they started to take medicine for it. The early treatment of TB helps to ensure that individuals do not spread the disease to their loved ones.

Anyone can contract TB, but some people are at greater risk of developing an active form of the disease. Take extra care if you:
suffer from poor nutrition and a lack of food;
have other chronic illnesses such as HIV and diabetes;
are in close contact with TB patients;
suffer from a great deal of stress;
take excessive amounts of drugs and/or alcohol; and
live in poorly ventilated or overcrow­ded conditions.

“Many people with active TB make the mistake of thinking they may have common cold or cough and leave it untreated in the belief that it will go away in time. If you have a cough and are experiencing night sweats for more than three weeks, you should visit your doctor as it may be a sign that you have contracted TB,” Gqola advised.

Common symptoms for TB:
coughing for longer than two weeks;
coughing up flecks of blood;
chest pains;
tiredness and weakness;
night sweats, even when it is cold;
loss of appetite; and
weight loss.

It is important to take TB treatment as instructed by a doctor for a minimum of six months to ensure that the TB bacteria are destroyed.

According to Gqola, more than 95% of people who are properly treated for TB and who take their medicine as per instruction of their doctor are cured.

“The best thing you can do to support a family member or friend with TB is to make sure that they take their medication for the whole six months of treatment and that they do not stop taking the treatment when they start feeling better or because they don’t like it”.

“By not finishing your course of TB medication you are at risk of developing multi drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) – a strain of TB bacteria that has become resistant to TB drugs that is more difficult to treat and can be fatal,” Gqola said.


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