Tuberculosis: The Silent Enemy

With one of the highest Tuberculosis infection rates in the world, Papua New Guinea’s Tuberculosis pandemic is now a national emergency. With approximately 30,000 people in the country newly infected with the Tuberculosis bacteria every year, it is high time that awareness about this deadly disease is spread increased in the country.


Tuberculosis is a communicable, airborne infection caused by the mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. The bacteria can lie dormant in the body for several years before becoming active and causing serious health complications. At a greater risk are those with a compromised immunity, as the Tuberculosis bacteria develops into a disease quickly before the body can fight back against the infection. The bacteria manifests itself and destructs organ tissue inside the body, mostly in the lungs.


Tuberculosis presents itself symptomatically as a fever and can prove to be fatal if left untreated.


Types of Tuberculosis

There are two kinds of Tuberculosis : active and latent Tuberculosis


Latent Tuberculosis : latent Tuberculosis occurs when the Tuberculosis bacteria stays and breeds in the body in an inactive state. This kind of Tuberculosis does not cause any symptoms and is not contagious.


Active Tuberculosis : when the latent Tuberculosis bacteria causes symptoms and becomes contagious, the infection has now shifted to an active Tuberculosis infection.


Causes of Tuberculosis


The Mycobacterium Tuberculosis bacterium is responsible for causing Tuberculosis in the body. The bacteria shows slow growth and is aerobic, and can grow within the cells of the body. The bacteria has a unique wall structure that helps protect it from the body’s defenses.


The bacteria escapes destruction by the body’s defense mechanism by spreading throughout the body through the bloodstream to most organs, especially those that oxygenate well, including the lungs, bones and kidneys.


Symptoms of Tuberculosis


Symptoms of Tuberculosis include the following :


• Coughing for more than three weeks

• Unintentional weight loss

• Fatigue

• Night sweats

• Chills

• Loss of appetite

• Coughing up blood

• Chest pain



Diagnosis of Tuberculosis


The most common diagnostic test for Tuberculosis is the skin test.


An injection consisting of a substance known as PPD tuberculin is injected just below the skin in your forearm.


Within forty eight to seventy two hours, your healthcare professional examines our arm to check for any swelling at the site where the injection is administered.


A raised, hard bump indicates that you are likely to be suffering from a Tuberculosis infection.


A physical exam in then performed to check for any swelling in the lymph nodes, which can confirm the presence of Tuberculosis in the body.


                • Imaging Tests


If you test positive for Tuberculosis in the skin test, your healthcare professional is then likely to recommend a chest CT Scan or X-ray. Active Tuberculosis causes changes in the lungs, which is revealed in the above imaging tests. White spots may also be revealed in these days, indicating the sites where your body has walled off Tuberculosis bacteria.


                 • Sputum test


If you have had a positive imaging test, samples of your sputum, or mucus, is tested for Tuberculosis bacteria, in order to confirm the presence of Tuberculosis bacteria in the body.


Treatment of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis infections take a longer time to heal as compared to other types of bacterial infections. An affected individual is required to take medications for the next six to nine months in order to ensure complete eradication of the Tuberculosis bacteria from the body. The actual duration of treatment as well as the exact drugs prescribed by your healthcare professional, depending upon your age, gender, ethnicity, prior medical history etc.


Precautions to be taken to avoid a Tuberculosis infection

• The Tuberculosis vaccine known as the BCG is the most prevalent anti-tuberculosis aids used in the world at present. The vaccine has been proven to provide the safest and most effective shield against the disseminated forms of Tuberculosis.


• In individuals with latent Tuberculosis, the Tuberculosis drug treatment has been proven to be effective in reducing the risk of the first episode of active Tuberculosis.


• Make sure your house and other living spaces are adequately ventilated.


• Consume more fruits and vegetables and lead an active and healthy lifestyle in order to strengthen your immune system enough to fend off an attack from the Tuberculosis bacteria.