Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease which is mostly known to affect the lungs. However, it can also take its toll on other parts of the body such as the spine, brain or kidneys. Not everyone who is infected gets sick – this is called latent TB - but you should make an appointment with your doctor immediately if you begin to show the following symptoms:
We are often misinformed about TB which is why there are so many myths out there about what causes TB and how it is spread. This article dispels some of the more popular ones.
Truth – TB bacteria are spread through the air and are infectious. However, the germs do not spread easily and you only stand a chance of contracting the illness if you spend a lot of time with someone who has TB. Did you know that most people who breathe in the TB bacteria are able to fight it and stop it from growing? What happens then is the bacteria lies dormant and is called a latent TB infection. The problem is it’s still alive in your body and if your immune system is weakened in any way, the bacteria can start growing and become active TB disease.
Truth – You cannot get TB through food and water, nor by kissing someone or holding their hand. You cannot even get it by sharing a toilet seat or a toothbrush with someone who has the disease. TB can only be spread when a person with active TB disease releases germs into the air by coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, or laughing. Active TB means the person has a pulmonary infection and displays symptoms of the sickness.
Truth – The good news is it can be cured, even in people who have HIV. TB is treated with a long course of antibiotics. You may even need to take various types of antibiotics for as long as 31 weeks before the TB bacteria have completely cleared out of your system. And, in order for you to get a clean bill of health, you must take all the prescribed medication or not all of the TB bacteria will be destroyed. Some people start feeling better and decide they don’t need to finish their course of antibiotics. This is a big mistake and the bacteria can start growing again.
Truth – Anyone can get TB but people who are most susceptible to the disease are usually vulnerable in one way or another, such as those:
Truth – While South Africa may have one of the highest incidents of TB, the illness has infected approximately 33% of the world’s population. This means nearly 2,5 billion people are infected with TB on a global level.
If you are worried you may have TB, you should make an appointment at your local hospital to be tested. If the results show you do have the disease, you can receive treatment and make a full recovery.
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Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.