Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis and mycobacterium bovis. Despite treatment, TB manages to remain a worldwide health problem. The incidence of TB has also increased with the large number of HIV cases. HIV positive people are more susceptible to developing TB. The causes of TB are several.
The bacteria can lie dormant in a person’s body for decades. The symptoms are seen only in very advanced cases. The typical symptoms of TB are weight loss, loss of energy, coughing, sneezing and an abnormal chest x-ray. Fever, chest pain and blood in the sputum are also seen.
Tuberculosis is highly contagious and is normally passed on from person to person through sneezing, coughing and droplets of saliva and mucous.
Most people with compromised or weakened immunities experience the following changes. The infection particles reach the small sacs in the lungs. The bacteria are thereafter transmitted to the other organs through the lymphatic system.
They tend to grow and multiply in organs, which are high-pressure areas for oxygen. The growth of the bacteria then slowly spreads from organ to organ. Clinically the disease begins to exhibit symptoms and a diagnosis of TB is given.
There are some people who are infected with the TB bacteria but do not show symptoms. That is because their immunities have engulfed the bacteria and walled it off. Therefore, the bacteria remain dormant in their systems. This is called as latent tuberculosis infection. The person cannot transmit the disease to another person.
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HIV is one of the biggest risk and causative factors for TB. This is because HIV weakens and compromises the immunity of the person. Either people catch the infection from others or the bacteria in their systems become active. This can lead to full blown TB.
Poor people who do not have access to proper hygiene, sanitation and medical services are more prone to developing, catching and dying from TB than others are.
An epidemic of TB can spread when large-scale migrations of infected people occur. This was a trend seen even in the incidence of swine flu. TB can become an epidemic when a large number of people are infected as the disease spreads through air and contact.
Occupational hazards like being a health worker can also put you at risk for developing TB. Therefore, the incidence of Tb is even higher in doctors, nurses and other health care workers as the spread of the disease is faster.
As the disease is very contagious, it spreads faster. The disease is also rampant in HIV sufferers. Controlling the risk of HIV infection can automatically reduce the risk of contracting TB. The disease is highly treatable.
The treatment, however, is painfully slow and requires months of medication and there are always chances of the disease recurring. The disease is more common in developing countries, which still do not have adequate access to top class medical services and public health systems.
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