What is Tuberculosis (TB)?
TB is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria affecting the lungs, but it can occur anywhere in the body. In the year of 2015 alone, believe it or not but 1.8 million of people worldwide have died from the disease. As per the World Health Organization, it is estimated that each year roughly 9.1 million of people will get infected with TB.
There are two types of TB: Latent and Active. In Latent TB, the bacteria remains in your body, however, it is inactive and therefore does not produce symptoms and the person is not considered to be contagious unless the disease becomes active. On the other hand, in Active TB – the person is contagious as the person has symptoms which can be transmitted to others.
What are the Symptoms of TB?
TB is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, speaks, sneezes or exhales. Not everyone infected becomes sick, and TB generally produces severe symptoms including a long-lasting cough, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum, fever, weakness, weight loss, chills, swearing, lack of appetite, tiredness.
TB can also spread to other parts of the body leading to spinal pain and joint damage. It can also lead to meningitis, impair liver, kidney, and heart functions.
Who is at Risk for contracting TB?
TB occurs throughout the world, and is most often found in areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and South America. Therefore, travelers going to the above regions are considered to be at risk.
Travelers with compromised immune system such as: people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDs, Cancer, and others with complex medical history.
How is TB Diagnosed?
The most common and simple test for diagnosing TB is called a TB Skin Test or Mantoux Tuberculin Skin Test. It involves injecting 0.1ml of PPD Tuberculin intradermally under your skin at 15 degrees. The PPD Tuberculin is an extract of the TB Bacterium. The site of the injection should be checked within 48-72 hours to assess the swelling and the redness of the site. If the site has a hard, red bump, it is likely to indicate that TB is present. Unfortunately, those tests are not 100% accurate and therefore can provide a false negative and/or false positive test. In addition to TB Skin Test, blood test, sputum test, and Chest X-Rays can be used as other tests to diagnose TB.
TB Skin Test is commonly required for health care professionals, nursing/medical students, certain teachers, and for travelers who are going to be doing Mission Work at different regions of the world.
How is TB Prevented?
Nearly 1.8 TB-related deaths occur every year, making this a serious infection. While there is a vaccine for TB, it has limited efficacy in prevention, which is why the best means of prevention is avoidance of areas where TB is prevalent, and regular skin testing for the disease after travels.
Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (2016). Tuberculin skin testing. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/factsheets/testing/skintesting.htm
Medical News Today (2017). Tuberculosis: Causes, symptoms, and treatment. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8856.php
World Health Organization (2017). Tuberculosis (TB). Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/tb/challenges/ltbi/en/