World Tuberculosis Day
24 March marked World Tuberculosis Day, which aims to raise public awareness about the disease and increase efforts to end the global TB epidemic
Posted on 25 March 2019
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. TB mainly affects the lungs, however, it can affect any part of the body, including the glands, bones and nervous system.
Despite being curable, TB is now the world’s leading infectious disease killer, claiming 4500 lives each day. In 2017, the World Health Organisation reported that 10 million people fell ill with TB and 1.6 million died from the disease.
The heaviest burden is carried by ethnic minor communities facing socio-economic challenges, those working and living in high-risk settings, the poorest and marginalised. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals aim to end the TB epidemic by 2030, while the World Health Organisation targets a 95 per cent reduction in TB mortality worldwide by 2035.
TB disease usually develops slowly, and it may take several weeks for you to become aware that you're unwell. The symptoms depend on which area of the body has been infected.
General symptoms of TB:
- lack of appetite and weight loss
- a high temperature (fever)
- night sweats
- extreme tiredness or fatigue
These symptoms can have many different causes, however, and aren't always a sign of TB.
TB that affects the lungs (pulmonary TB)
Most TB infections affect the lungs, which can cause:
- a persistent cough that lasts more than three weeks and usually brings up phlegm, which may be bloody
- breathlessness that gradually gets worse
TB outside the lungs
Less commonly, TB infections develop in areas outside the lungs, such as the small glands that form part of the immune system, the bones and joints, the digestive system, the bladder and reproductive system, and the brain and nervous system.
Despite being a serious condition, TB can be cured with proper treatment. Doctors prescribe a prolonged cause of antibiotics to kill the bacteria that cause it. This may take weeks, but gradually you will start to feel better. However, as with any antibiotic treatment, failing to complete a full course can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
Missed opportunities to diagnose TB are common and correlate with the number of TB cases diagnosed at a hospital. As the current figures reflect only reported cases, the true disease prevalence may be even higher. Limiting the spread of the disease depends on successfully finding and treating people with TB to prevent them from passing it onto others.
If you have been in close contact with someone known to have TB or if you've recently spent time in a country where TB levels are high, you should consult your GP, so that you are given information and advice about the need for testing.