Tuberculosis or TB is a contagious infectious disease that affects the lungs. And in severe cases can spread to spine, brain, and kidneys. TB spreads from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes. TB has different strains; some strains are easily treatable while others are resistant to drugs.
Pakistan globally ranks 5th among high burden countries affected by TB, with 510000 cases reported each year, including 15 thousand cases of drug resistant TB. Experts identify late diagnosis, inappropriate and inadequate treatment and lack of follow-up checkups with doctors as the cause of drug resistant TB. Another major reason is considered to be the lack of support from society and stigma attached to TB, that plays a major role in discouraging TB patients from getting treated.
Mass displacements due to damage caused during major emergencies or disasters such as floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and war can also affect TB patients to continue their treatment.
Types of Tuberculosis
As mentioned earlier, there are different strains of TB. Some are treatable while other strains are resistant to drugs.
i. Latent or Inactive TB
In Latent TB the bacteria are present in the patient’s body, but it is inactive and shows no symptoms because of strong immune response. Latent TB does not spread from one person to another, but it can turn into active TB, which makes it important to be treated.
Latent TB can be detected by a chest X-Ray or if the patient’s immune system gets weakened.
ii. Active TB
Active TB is when TB bacteria makes one sick. One can start showing symptoms of active TB one week after infection or it can take up to years. Active TB is transferable and can spread to people who are actively in contact with the patients. Most cases of Active TB come from Latent TB, when a person’s immune system can no longer defend the body against the disease.
TB’s symptoms vary depending on the part of the body it effects. But the general symptoms of TB are as follows:
- A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood or sputum
- Weakness or fatigue
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Fever and chills
- Sweating at night
As TB is an airborne infection, TB bacteria are released into the air when someone with infectious TB coughs or sneezes. The risk of infection can be reduced by using a few simple precautions:
- Good Ventilation: TB infected droplets can remain suspended in the air for several hours with no ventilation, therefore managing your environment to account for good ventilation can help prevent TB. Furthermore, avoid crowded spaces to minimize the risk of TB infection.
- Good Hygiene: In healthcare settings, the spread of TB is reduced through the use of protective masks, ventilation systems, keeping potentially infectious patients separate from other patients, and the regular screening of healthcare workers for TB.
- Healthy Immune System: A healthy immune system is known to be the best form of defense against Tuberculosis. In most healthy people, the immune system kills the TB bacteria and there are no symptoms.
It is important to note that TB is a treatable disease. It is extremely crucial for TB patients to finish their medication and use them as prescribed by their doctor. If patients do not properly finish their medication, the risk of the disease infecting them again are high and in many cases the bacteria might become resistant to medication which makes it harder to treat.
Pregnant women with a TB diagnosis are at a great risk. Babies born to women with untreated TB disease may have lower birth weight than those babies born to women without TB. Rarely, a baby may be born with TB. Pregnant women at high risk for developing TB disease should be tested for TB infection. Generally, pregnant women who are at a high risk for developing TB include:
- Persons who have been recently infected with TB bacteria.
- Persons with medical conditions that weaken the immune system.
Free-TB Treatment in Pakistan
The Government of Pakistan under National TB Control Program (NTP) is offering free treatment to TB patients. The free treatment includes free stay at hospital and provision of medicines along with testing and diagnoses services. Free TB treatment is provided across public health facilities i.e., government hospitals, such as a District Headquarter Hospital (DHQ), Basic Health Unit (BHU), or Rural Health Center (RHC). Some government hospitals have special TB Clinics established inside them.
You can find the nearest TB center from NTP’s website or call NTP helpline on 0800-88800.
Free TB Management Course
NTP is providing free online TB Management Course to doctors and other health care providers across Pakistan. The course is designed to learn about TB diagnosis, its treatment and prevention, contact screening and registration of TB cases electronically through a mobile application.
You can register for the course online on NTP’s website here.
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