The theme for World TB Day 2021 “The Clock is Ticking” signifies that the world is running out of time to honor the commitments they made to ending Tuberculosis world over.
What is Tuberculosis Day?
Despite having been around for more than 80 years now, Tuberculosis still remains to be one of those diseases that take a big number of lives, at least 4000 per day. Put into this equation the fact that children are also affected and that Tuberculosis Bacteria is becoming resistant to many drugs, it is becoming a difficult outbreak to contain. Hence, on the 24th March, every year the World Health Organization pays special attention to this disease by educating the population on what the disease is, how to prevent it and symptoms that need to be looked out for. This World Tuberculosis Day, Clouds Solutions International hopes to shed more light on the disease, so here it is.
What is Tuberculosis?
Caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs of an individual, but in some cases, it may attack the kidney, spine or even the brain. It was once a very common disease only in poorer nations where the quality of life was not great. However, due to the increase in HIV Virus in many of the developed nations, TB is also becoming increasingly common, as the immune system is usually weakened by the HIV Virus, which makes it harder to fight the TB Bacteria. There are two kinds of Tuberculosis related conditions, Latent TB is when the bacteria remain in one’s body in an inactive state, thereby causing no symptoms. However, this TB can turn into Active Tuberculosis if it isn’t treated. Hence, without any doubt the second type of condition is Active Tuberculosis where the individual becomes sick and can spread it to others through passage of droplets, such as while talking, laughing, sharing food, etc.
Signs and Symptoms
- Coughs that last three or more weeks
- Coughing of blood
- Chest pains while breathing or coughing.
- Sudden and unintentional weight loss.
- Feeling of fatigue
- Night Sweats
However, in case it affects the spine, an individual would experience severe back pains, and if it affects the kidneys there is a high chance that the patient would urinate blood.
Since we have already established the severity of the disease it is important to know what makes one more prone to the disease, as those who are considered to be at risk, must take extra care when moving around those diagnosed with Tuberculosis. One of the main risk factors is a weak immune system, as in many diseases like certain cancers, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes and severe kidney diseases, the immune system weakens. Furthermore, immunosuppressants and other drugs that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis can weaken one’s immune system. When this happens the fighter cells in our body: B-Cells and T-Cells, are not able to attack the Tuberculosis Bacteria effectively, thus these individuals are at high risk.
Another risk factor is where one works or lives, as people who work in Healthcare, Homeless shelters, nursing homes, psychiatric facilities and prisons are at a higher risk as they can have high chances of exposure to people who are ill and some of these facilities such as prisons may be overcrowded and poorly ventilated, thus, increasing the infection rates.
Difference between Tuberculosis and COVID-19
They are both so similar on the base, as they are both infectious diseases that affect the lungs primarily. Furthermore, they portray similar symptoms such as cough, difficulty of breathing and fever. However, Tuberculosis is said to have a longer incubation period with a slower onset of disease. Which means that TB can remain inactive in someone’s body for longer than the Corona-Virus, and when it does become active, it begins to affect the person much slowly compared to the virus.
Tuberculosis in Sri Lanka
According to Sri Lankan Health Authorities, at least 8000 to 9000 individuals are diagnosed with Tuberculosis, whilst 600 odd lives are being lost to the disease, and although these numbers seem staggeringly high, the information that the World Health Organization provides is much more worrying: it estimates that at least 13,000 individuals could be undetected. Hence, the 2021 tagline for Tuberculosis Day is of very high importance to Sri Lanka, “The clock is ticking. It’s time to keep our promises. It’s time to #End TB.”
- Tuberculosis and COVID-19: https://www.who.int/teams/global-tuberculosis-programme/covid-19#:~:text=Tuberculosis%20(TB)%20and,slower%20onset%20of%20disease
- National Programme for Tuberculosis Control and Chest Diseases, Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka: https://medicine.kln.ac.lk/depts/publichealth/Fixed_Learning/HEB/Media%20Seminar%20Presentation/NPTCCD/tuberculosis_control_and_chest_diseas.pdf
- Statistics on the diagnosis & spread of TB in Sri Lanka: https://disease.lk/tuberculosis/